“I couldn’t go back in time, but maybe I could skip sideways.”
Well I can say that this isn’t a book that pulls its punches.
I actually got this while browsing through NetGalley and stopped on it because of the cool cover. Blood-red, weirdly psychedelic. Like a sci-fi novel waiting to happen. And I wasn’t wrong; Some Laneys Died by Brooke Skipstone plays heavily upon the alternate universes– specifically about how certain choices we make affect the multitudes of alternate universes out there in the world.
Laney West is a traumatized teenager. Years ago, she caught her father having an affair. The choice she made, to tell her mother and effectively destroy their family, is one that she’s regretted since. In order to cope with this, she writes– and lives– in alternate universes in which she made different choices.
It’s already sounding twisty, right? Well hold on. Because add to the mix that recently there have been the bones of two young girls found where Laney confronted her father that original time.
Laney is an interesting character. She is obsessive about this alternate universe theory and much of the beginning of the novel reads like her psyche; some kind of fugue state where she mentions that things happen, but you don’t see them. In all honesty, it’s hard to keep up; Delaney’s mind is so one-track that even the reader has no real idea of what’s real or not. And that’s before she starts seeing into her alternate selve’s choices.
It’s a chaotic writing style, that’s for sure, one that does take some getting used to and can be taxing to try and sort out as you move on to the middle of the book. But once you do it’s almost– endearing is the wrong word, but the chaos of this novel becomes a tolerated and respected quirk. Easier to parse out what’s happening as time goes on. More enjoyable to just sit back and ride along with all the crazy.
I also think the writing of the novel could have been smoother. There are some odd choices sprinkled in the novel– jokes that don’t quite land, phrasings that are cringey, not quite “on the mark” when it comes to how high schoolers would act/react.
Laney is also very much a teenage girl who, I think despite the author’s best intentions, doesn’t always come across as particularly mature. And that’s okay, she’s 16 and acts 16 and she’s thrust into this weird world of choices and alternate selves and– well she constantly feels like she’s on the brink of a mental breakdown. It’s tiring, but understandable.
The side characters are interesting– each one seems crazier than the last, but hell, at this point let’s throw in the weird party friends and the pervy high school flirt and brothers and sisters. They do liven up the plot quite a bit, especially in the middle, where the story seems to lag for about 30 pages.
To me, where the story really shines in the concept and originality of the idea. Not only are we questioning what’s real and not real throughout the story, but we are also trying to “solve a murder.” We are dealing with a very hotly contested topic– alternate universes– and Skipstone bends the physics and theories behind it to weave a bendy tale with multiple plotlines.
Within these plotlines, however, there are some major trigger warnings.
I said before that this book doesn’t pull its punches and I meant it. There is a good deal of sex, sexual violence, suicidal tendancies and attempts, and altogether crazy shit that is not for the faint of heart. You should not go into this book for fluff because you won’t find it.
What you will find though is a book about a girl trying to deal with her place in her family, her relationship with herself, and how the choices that one makes has consequences that can span far beyond your respective universe.
This is an ambitious book. While I don’t think it quite ended being my cup of tea, for some it absolutely will be. It shouldn’t be counted out as a potential popular sci-fi novel, especially since I have a feel alternate universes are going to begin growing in popularity.