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TANDEM, the first installment in Anna Jarzab’s Many-Worlds trilogy, is a romantic, suspenseful fairy tale with a sci-fi twist.

Sasha Lawson, 16, has dreamed about being a princess her whole life --- Princess Juliana to be specific --- but she never thought the dreams were anything but dreams until now. Thomas Mayhew has been sent from the subtly different parallel universe of Aurora to Earth. His mission: to kidnap Sasha and bring her back to his world. Why? Each person has an analog or twin, a unique version of themselves who exists in every other parallel universe. Sasha’s analog is Princess Juliana, the heir to the throne of the United Commonwealth of Columbia, who has gone missing just before her imminent wedding. Thomas impersonates his look-alike or analog on Earth --- Grant Matthews, Sasha’s longtime crush --- and asks Sasha to the prom in order to gain her trust before giving her a bracelet that instantly yanks her through the tandem that exists between universes, and into Aurora.

Pure escapist fiction, TANDEM will leave you wondering “what if.”

When Sasha wakes up alone and confused in a strange world, not only does she find out that she has been betrayed by the boy she was falling for, but also that unless she agrees to pretend to be Princess Juliana for six days, she will never get home. Princess Juliana is arranged to be married to Prince Callum from the bordering country of Farnham. The political ramifications of Juliana’s disappearance could cause a war between Farnham and Columbia. Sasha does everything she can think of to get out of Aurora ---she screams, cries, faints, begs and runs away --- but she eventually crumbles in the face of the General, the head of Columbia’s army, a stern man whose orders are always obeyed without question.

With Thomas’s help, Sasha tentatively steps into the princess’s shoes, and as she gradually adjusts to the routine of Juliana’s life, she learns that being a princess is not as cushy as it looks and life inside the castle is more dangerous than she ever imagined. Thomas is the only person Sasha can trust to protect her and see her for who she really is. Things get even more complicated with the arrival of Prince Callum, a sweet boy who has never left his own palace before --- he falls in love with Sasha/Juliana immediately. But when Sasha discovers the truth behind Juliana’s disappearance and learns that the General has no intention of keeping his promise to send her home, she fears that she will be trapped in another girl’s life forever. Will she ever return to her own world? And if she does, what will happen to the world and people she leaves behind?

Told from three different points of view --- Sasha’s, Thomas’s, and Juliana’s --- TANDEM is very telenovela. Multiple love triangles abound and there are more than a few overly long interior monologues in which the characters dissect their feelings and actions in sometimes excruciating detail. Jarzab spends a lot of time world building and describing the atmosphere of Aurora. Her explanation of the multiverse is perhaps the most interesting part of the book. Blending theories of physics with sci-fi and fantastical elements, Jarzab does a great job supporting the science of her story, making the tandem and analogs and other elements seem convincing and plausible. Warning: this is very much a first book in a series.  The author ends on a cliffhanger and gives almost no closure as to where the characters stand. Though slightly too long, Jarzab’s story and writing style are enjoyable and Sasha is a likable heroine. Pure escapist fiction, TANDEM will leave you wondering “what if.”

Reviewed by Alice Dalrymple on December 17, 2013

by Anna Jarzab

  • Publication Date: October 8, 2013
  • Genres: Fantasy, Fiction
  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
  • ISBN-10: 0385742770
  • ISBN-13: 9780385742771