& Review: In Some Other World, Maybe by Shari Goldhagen

In Some Other World, Maybe by Shari Goldhagen. Fiction. Publisher: St. Martin's Press.

In Some Other World, Maybe by Shari Goldhagen. Fiction. Publisher: St. Martin’s Press.

The Book Itself: Pastel, watercolor title, silhouetted people…the only reason I read the description of this book was that the cover caught my attention. I think it’s a solid title, too. Made me read it!

My Review: In November 1992, three groups of teenagers in three separate cities head to the movie theater to see the film version of the famed Eons & Empires comic books. For Adam, it’s a last ditch effort to connect with something (actually, someone, the girl he’s had a crush on for years) in his sleepy Florida town before he leaves for good. Passionate fan Sharon, on the other hand, skips school so she can fully appreciate the flick without interruption from her vapid friends (well, the friends of her only friend)—a seemingly silly indiscretion with shockingly dark consequences. And in suburban Chicago, Phoebe and Ollie just want to have a nice first-date (and maybe fool around in the dark)—if their friends and family could just stop getting in the way. Over the next two decades, this unforgettable cast of characters moves through Hollywood, New York, and the greener spaces between as they become intertwined by friendship, love, sex, ambition, and tragedy. A razor-sharp, darkly comic page-turner, In Some Other World, Maybe sheds light on what it means to grow up in modern America.

On the surface, it doesn’t sound like such a remarkable book. Meet a few young people, and see how they grow (or don’t grow) throughout the decades of their lives. Tragedies happen: people die, couples break up, sicknesses hit. And triumphs occur: couples get together, get engaged, characters get promotions, and find success in their careers. So what makes this book, which essentially tells you about handful of character’s lives, better than all the other books out there that tell you about a handful of character’s lives?

This one is just so darn good. Which sounds like a lame recommendation. But I was excited to return to this book every time I found time to read. It’s the strong relationships, and the unifying forces that make this book stand out. In the end, I truly cared about all of them. I wanted them to do well, and every character arc ended in a way that I felt it should.

Every character has a strong tie to the others. They date one another (there’s a bit of couple-swapping involved here), they’re siblings, they’re best friends…and those ties are so defining, so human, that it makes even the serial daters and the whining wannabes endearing.

Adam and Phoebe have the closest bond throughout the novel. They’re best friends/lovers/a couple/each others closest confidante. And even when Phoebe is too goody-two-shoes, too shiny, too perfect, it is her dependence on Adam that makes her relatable. He is her weakness, and it helps her arc as a character. Adam is a bit of a womanizer, and his dependence and soft spot for Phoebe endears him to the reader. This relationship isn’t his weakness; this relationship is his redeeming quality. Phoebe makes him better, and helped me like him more.

I also loved the unifying theme of the Eons & Empires “franchise” throughout the character’s stories. The title is a reference to the concept of the comics: a trio of heroes travels between worlds, destroying or saving lives in each. You get the sense that each of these characters could have different outcomes in “some other world.” Maybe some characters get together and stay together. Maybe this person doesn’t die. Maybe this one finds happiness and success.

One character gets involved in a TV adaptation of the comics. One character’s obsession with the comics as a teenager resurfaces years later in his/her career. It’s a nice, strong, unifying thread that the story/fantasy geek in me loved. I do wish that the world of Eons & Empires were fleshed out more. I wish it were a real set of stories! But I wish the characters and plot were given a little more time.

There’s quite a bit of sex, so if that might bother you, keep it in mind. But I found the characters and story heart-breaking, joyous, funny, well done, and satisfying. Please pick this one up!

My Grade: B+

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