I went into The Book of Tomorrow with pretty high expectations. I loved P.S. I Love You, and *adored* Where Rainbows End – it’s still one of my favourite books of all time. Romance novels and general chick lit-ty goodness tend to appear on my bookshelves without me really noticing it, so I picked TBOT up earlier in the summer to keep me occupied on a train. I liked the look of the cover and the premise enticed me. I was interested to see where Ahern would take it!
The Book of Tomorrow follows Tamara Goodwin, a fifteen-year-old who moves to a remote part of the Irish countryside following the sudden death of her father, along with her mentally unstable mother, to stay with Tamara’s aunt Rosaleen and uncle Arthur. Aboard a book van which routinely appears in the village, Tamara finds a journal, seemingly completely blank – until entries dated the following day begin to crop up in Tamara’s handwriting. Throughout the story, Tamara uses these entries to shape her choices, improve her character and eventually solve the mystery of the ruined castle situated in the grounds of Arthur’s gatehouse.
Sadly, the book didn’t quite live up to expectations. I still think the premise is brilliant. However, I thought the journal would be more of a central feature, where it just wasn’t. In parts, it seemed to be there merely to push the story forwards in parts where the narrative became repetitive and slow (more on that in a sec). Rather than exploring the potential of a journal with these sort of fortune-telling powers, the story focuses more on Tamara’s encounters with two love interests and her conversations with Rosaleen and her mum, both of which were incredibly same-y day in, day out. Admittedly it was a great way to create a stagnant atmosphere, which was maybe Ahern’s intention to show the contrast between Tamara’s once luxurious, flashy lifestyle of sex, drugs and partying, and the lonely life she leads in the gatehouse.
Now, the pace. I felt as though I was plodding through The Book of Tomorrow, until the last few chapters where all the mysteries are wrapped up and revelations occur left, right and centre. I liked the ending of this book. The novel certainly went out with a bang and didn’t fade to black with a load of unanswered questions, which I appreciated. That being said, I did feel as though all these answers were just being fed to me to get them out of the way. There were subtle hints and clues dropped throughout the chapters, but this didn’t stop the ending from feeling rushed.
My final little nark with this book is that I really, really wanted to like Tamara. I tried. Finishing a book is always more emotional when you’ve been rooting for the protagonist, and I didn’t get that here. Tamara, to me, seemed to be a parody of how some adults perceive 16 year olds. Her language switched from English to American quite frequently, which was difficult to adjust to – particularly with colloquialisms such as ‘totally’, which were jarring to read. Maybe this is more of a person niggle, but I felt as though I couldn’t relate to Tamara as a UK 16 year old at all. At 16, I was nothing like Tamara, and didn’t know anyone like her either.
It wasn’t all bad, though. As far as chick lit goes, the fantastical twist was nice and as I’ve said, the journal was such an interesting motif. The Book of Tomorrow is very readable – I read the majority of it in one sitting on the train! If you can overlook these flaws, it’s still a bit of a page turner. I also loved the inclusion of Sister Ignatius, who provided a bit of light relief from the darker themes of the book and was overall a heartwarming, likeable character.
I’d recommend giving Ahern’s other books a read first, if you’ve never ventured into her works before. This one was okay, I guess, but it’s not a story that stuck with me after I’d finished it.