Seventeen-year-old Bo has always had delusions that he can travel through time. When he was ten, Bo claimed to have witnessed the Titanic hit an iceberg, and at fifteen, he found himself on a Civil War battlefield, horrified by the bodies surrounding him. So when his concerned parents send him to a school for troubled youth, Bo assumes he knows the truth: that he’s actually attending Berkshire Academy, a school for kids who, like Bo, have "superpowers." At Berkshire, Bo falls in love with Sofia, a quiet girl with a tragic past and the superpower of invisibility. Sofia helps Bo open up in a way he never has before. In turn, Bo provides comfort to Sofia, who lost her mother and two sisters at a very young age. But even the strength of their love isn’t enough to help Sofia escape her deep depression. After she commits suicide, Bo is convinced that she's not actually dead. He believes that she's stuck somewhere in time — that he somehow left her in the past, and now it's his job to save her.
A World Without YouFeatured
This book reminded me of Neal Shusterman's Challenger Deep. Honestly, I did expect a lot from this book, but it started really slow for me. I had trouble relating to Bo and I felt like things were just going on and on and I wasn't getting any of it. Amidst that trouble, I pushed through and I'm glad that the story became better, especially during the time where Bo realized the truth about him.
It's also a great thing that the book was told in dual POVs (Bo and his sister Phoebe), at first I really didn't get why it's supposed to be dual, but then as the story progressed, I've realized that one of the narrators was actually an unrealiable one, which was really interesting. Bo and Phoebe doesn't exactly have a perfect sibling relationship but I'm really happy to see their relationship develop and get better.
The portrayal of mental health and mental illnesses in the book is spot on. Clearly, the author knows what she's doing. It's also a poignant and touching story of love, friendship, family, and more importantly self-discovery and acceptance.
Overall, it was a good read. I had trouble getting into it because of the slow start, to the point that I almost decided to not finish it but I'm glad I kept on reading because it got better the message of the book is really important.
First, so there is no doubt in your mind, I want you to know I really enjoyed reading this book. It is a book that will appeal to YA readers that like realistic fiction, romance, stories of mental illness and a hint of the supernatural. It has a little bit of everything. In my adult words, ‘A WORLD WITHOUT YOU is about mental health, but it is really more than that. It is about acknowledging, accepting and coming to terms with mental illness personally and in others.’
Because the narrator is a mentally ill young man, and it is based on real events, the author’s website calls this book a “semi-autobiographical story”, the book reminds me of CHALLENGER DEEP by Neal Shusterman, which I read earlier this year with my teacher book club. (CHALLENGER DEEP is a whole different discussion.)
To me, the best part of the book is being in Bo’s mind. When I first started A WORLD WITHOUT YOU, I was totally confused and off kilter, which is exactly how Revis wants the reader to feel. I was in Bo’s world where a constant reality does not exist. Every time I thought I understood Bo and his world, his reality would shift and my understanding of the events and characters would shift too. There were several times I needed to stop and reread to make sure that I was really following the story. Once again, Revis does an excellent job of making the reader on edge like reality is constantly shifting. If you feel uneasy and do not like the uncertainty of not knowing what exactly is going on in a book, you might be uncomfortable with this story. I know for me, if I had not read CHALLENGER DEEP earlier this year and experienced life through the mind of a mentally ill youth, this book would have been out of my comfort zone, and I probably would not have enjoyed it as much.
I love how Bo views each character and his sense of how unique each person really is. Because his own grasp on reality is so fragile, he accepts each person as an individual and doesn’t question the “superpowers” each character possesses. Through his narrative, Bo’s “understanding” of each character makes them seem real. The mix-up of personalities and characters’ “superpowers” keep the story flowing. The introduction of Phoebe adds a different perspective to Bo’s illness.
Bo’s obsession with finding Sofia is unnerving. It is a constant throughout the book. It reminds me of a little kid tapping a parent’s shoulder to get attention. Tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, “Mom,” tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, “Mom,”... I think it needs to be like that to give the reader the sense of intensitiy that Bo felt. Job well done!
I love the way the ending makes my head spin and still has me thinking. I would love to talk about this book with anyone that has read it! I think it is a discussion that would last through several cups of coffee and well into the night.
Revis’ description of the timestream had me speechless. I love the way Revis uses threads to illustrate Bo’s manipulation of time. This visual helped me understand what Bo was trying to accomplish.
As I was preparing to write this review, I happened on a piece of art titled Tangled Threads. This oil on canvas became my vision of Bo’s timestream in the later parts of the book. The art is by Jennifer Pinder. Please check out her website.