Synopsis: How do people decide on a path, and find the drive to pursue what they want?
Ida struggles more than other young people to work this out. She can shift between parallel universes, allowing her to follow alternative paths.
One day Ida sees a shadowy, see-through doppelganger of herself on the train. She starts to wonder if she’s actually in control of her ability and whether there are effects far beyond what she’s considered.
How can she know, anyway, whether one universe is ultimately better than another? And what if the continual shifting causes her to lose what is most important to her, just as she’s discovering what that is, and she can never find her way back?
Review: I don’t read science fiction/fantasy very often, but Alison Evans’ Ida is making me think I should. Many of the reviews I’m finding say that they were confused the whole time, and I’m left trying to figure out why. I would never suggest that I’m smarter or anything of the sort, but there must be something different about my perspective on this story. Maybe it’s because I don’t have as much experience reading SFF than other reviewers. Maybe this particular story just clicked well with me.
From the very beginning, this story is intense. The first chapter narrates Ida getting into a car crash and nearly dying. Luckily she uses her powers of time travel to go back and decide to go a different route on her way home from work. This sets the scene for a very emotionally charged story.
Ida starts out believing that the power she wields is time travel, that she can travel back to a decision and change the outcome. Eventually, she realizes that she is switching between parallel universes. She also thinks that her frequent use of her powers doesn’t do any damage because it’s not hurting anyone and no one but her knows about this. Somewhere in a different point of time and space are Adrastos, who is monitoring Ida’s power, and Damaris, who is hired to find Ida and help her control her powers. They notice that the parallel universes are starting to blend together as Ida switches too much, and it becomes a race to see if Damaris can get to Ida before Ida is killed.
I’ve seen reviews complaining that it was difficult to follow what was happening because of Ida’s constant switching, but I disagree. The main characters are well-established in the beginning. Ida is the protagonist who lives with her father and her cousin Frank, plus her partner Daisy. These characters show up in different versions in each parallel universe. Ida can tell she’s not in the right universe when Daisy’s name is in her phone and they don’t know who Ida is, or when her father won’t speak to her and always sounds angry. There are even a couple universes where her mother is still alive. Later in the book, Ida loses control and pulled out of one universe and put into another at a maddening pace, but these characters all stay the same, and in each universe, Ida is a girl looking for a purpose in her life. So yes, there is a lot of universe hopping, but I think that enough aspects of her life stay the same to understand what is happening.
The travel between universes also adds to the emotional intensity, because her relationships differ so much. Plus, when she gets closer to fixing things in one universe, it seems that she ultimately gets pulled out against her will, causing a heart-pounding plot that leaves the reader rooting for Ida.
Now let’s more talk about Ida for a bit. She lives in Melbourne, Australia and works a crappy job at a cafe that she hates. Something kind of unique about her is that she has graduated high school but has no interest in going to college. Part of this is because she doesn’t really know what she wants to do with her life, but I love that we see a character who isn’t forced to go to college and doesn’t see university education as the only option. Please give us more YA stories like this. Graduating from high school and going right off to college isn’t the only way to live a life!
Another unusual (for YA) thing about Ida’s life is that she’s in an already established relationship. She and Daisy don’t spend the book building up to a big first kiss or one asking the other out. With the universe hopping, it wouldn’t have made sense for that to happen. Instead, Ida and Daisy are shown to have been in a happy, healthy relationship since before the book starts. I’m so tired of YA being romances disguised as fantasy or science fiction, and adding more protagonists with pre-established relationships could be the answer to this. Also, it’s a good way to show what healthy relationships are, instead of focusing on all that romantic drama.
Speaking of Daisy, you may have noticed me using they/them pronouns for them. That’s because Daisy is gender queer, which is mentioned on the page. In addition, Damaris and Adrastos are both gender fluid, and Frank is trans and not introduced as such. Ida herself is bisexual and half-Vietnamese. Damaris is also a person of color, but her ethnic origin isn’t specified. All of these identities are mentioned on the page without making it the only thing about the character.
Final thought: Pick up Ida for a short, diverse read with a great plot! I really enjoyed it and think that others will too.
Thank you to NetGalley for providing a copy in exchange for an honest review!