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Readers Advisory: Dissonance by Erica O’Rourke

Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers, $17.99 hardbound, ISBN-10 1442460245, July 2014

Delancy Sullivan has always known there’s more to reality than what people see. Every time someone makes a choice, a new, parallel world branches off from the existing one. Eating breakfast or skipping it, turning left instead of right, sneaking out instead of staying in bed ~ all of these choices create an alternate universe in which an echo self takes the road not traveled and makes the opposite decision. As a Walker, someone who can navigate between these worlds, Del’s job is to keep all of the dimensions in harmony. Normally, Del can hear the dissonant frequency that each world emits as clear as a bell. But when a training session in an off-key world goes horribly wrong, she is forbidden from Walking by the Council. But Del’s not big on following the rules and she secretly starts to investigate these other worlds. Something strange is connecting them and it’s not just her random encounters with echo versions of the guy she likes, Simon Lane. But Del’s decisions have unimaginable consequences and, as she begins to fall for the Echo Simons in each world, she draws closer to a truth that the Council of Walkers is trying to hide ~ a secret that threatens the fate of the entire multiverse.

As YA scifi romance goes, O’Rourke’s got something here, by which I mean a fairly unique idea. Del’s training to be a Walker, someone who passes between parallel worlds and listens to a frequency in each. Worlds with heavy dissonance must be pruned away by untethering their mystical cords. Or something. Okay, I admit it, I had a hard time following the world-building at first, but eventually I got the hang of it, although every time Del said “multiverse” I thought, “But they did away with the multiverse in the New 52!” Not only does Dissonance show off a cool scifi universe, it approaches some interesting what-ifs and moral questions. For example, if Del’s home world is the only real and original world, then all the copies of the people from the original world that are in the parallel worlds aren’t real, and destroying worlds doesn’t hurt these “echo” people. But if the echoes don’t know they’re echoes, if they have their own thoughts and feelings, doesn’t that make them just as real as their originals? By extension, doesn’t that make destroying a world an act of mass murder? Del faces a crisis of conscience as she goes from world to world bumping into copies of the guy she likes and falling a little for all of them, while falling a lot for the original guy, who has no idea she’s been smooching his echoes. Or even any idea that he has echoes.

Sprawling and intricate, Dissonance can be a heavy read at times, balanced by plenty of action and fluttering pulses. O’Rourke certainly has a promising first volume on her hands, with a tease at the end to hook readers into the next book.

Recommend to: Scifi fans

To buy or not to buy: For medium to large YA collections, a must-buy; recommended strongly for smaller collections as space permits

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