Book Review: Tandem (Many-Worlds Trilogy #1) by Anna Jarzab

Posted 10/11/2013 by alicemarvels in Science Fiction
Tandem by Anna Jarzab




Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Release Date: October 8, 2013
Page Count: 428


relatable heroine; sweet romance; well done mystery; strong worldbuilding; fascinating scientific concepts weaved into story in an interesting and not overwhelming way


reveals near the end have me craving immediate answers

An intelligent, romantic sci-fi adventure into the multiverse.


“My favorite heroines were girls who suddenly found themselves having to live by their wits in a world they didn’t quite understand. I couldn’t help but envy them; their experiences made them stronger, smarter, better—or, rather, it proved to them that they had been those things all along.”

Sasha has my taste in bookish heroines—like her, I wanted nothing more than to be like Meg Murray in A Wrinkle in Time or Alice in Alice in Wonderland, and be swept away on a thrilling adventure in a strange land. Sasha is about to get her girlhood wish for adventure in Tandem.

We meet Sasha when she is hanging out in her local Hyde Park bookstore, nerding out over Shakespeare. Suddenly Grant, the super gorgeous, popular guy she’s had a crush on for years (who has never looked her way before), comes over and strikes up a conversation, which ends in an invitation to prom. This could be the start of a sweet little contemporary romance about the shy, overlooked girl getting the guy, but it’s actually the beginning of a really riveting sci-fi story. Luckily, it never really loses that sweet contemporary vibe either.

Tandem is sort of like Fringe meets The Princess Diaries, so, basically it was a book I was destined to love. Here’s why it rocked:

Strong Worldbuilding & Fascinating Science


I’m no physics expert, but as a casual pop science reader (ok, just Brian Greene and Michio Kaku, so super poppy, I guess), I appreciated the scientific explanations for the links between Earth, Aurora and their corresponding analogs. They aren’t overly complex, so they won’t lose readers who can’t stomach harder sci-fi, but the science is sound enough for anyone with even a passing interest in theoretical physics.

There have been a few really good parallel universe YA stories recently (Parallel, Pivot Point, Through to You), but I feel like Tandem gets more points for being adventurous with the science.

It helps that the alternate universe Sasha finds herself in, Aurora, has a very precarious and interesting political situation, and a few gorgeous differences from our own world (such as aurora universalis, which is basically our aurora borealis, but everywhere) that make it an incredibly interesting place to set a story.


Princess Play



I’m a shallow gal. How do I know this? When Katniss was facing certain death in The Hunger Games, I was salivating over her theatrical outfits and the savory food she got to eat in the Capitol. The only reason I’m still reading the camptastic Selection series is because I’m addicted to the Bachelor style theatrics and the OUTFITS the princess hopefuls go through. So the shallow reader in me was ecstatic to find that Sasha’s Aurora analog is a princess, Juliana, and Sasha is charged with impersonating her. That means makeup, hair, gorgeous outfits, a prince to flirt with, royal drama and more. But all the fluff I love about the “impersonating a princess” storyline is surrounded by a meatier story, so I don’t have to feel guilty, right? LOVE IT.




I had no trouble relating to Sasha and immediately rooting for her, but her analog in Aurora, Princess Juliana, wasn’t as easy to like. Sasha may be trying to impersonate her while raising as little suspicion as possible, but she can’t help but leave her mark on Juliana’s life, and on Aurora. The unique relationship between analogs, and Sasha and Juliana in particular, is fascinating, and we’ve only just begun to explore the possibilities. And hooray! We get some fun twin/doppelganger faceoff moments!


Complicated Villains



Every villain is the hero of his own story, right? The moral implications of traveling through the tandem and trying to improve some part of your home universe or help someone you care for at the expense of another person are not easy to navigate, and we see characters we think of as good and kindhearted do undoubtedly bad things. There are also people who take advantage of the tandem with little to no qualms about the destruction of other lives, and those are the people we grow to fear the most as the story progresses. Sasha’s presence in Aurora is clearly about much more than buying time to find a lost princess, and there are so many people with hidden agendas and secrets, I suspected nearly every character of evildoing at some point in the story, and was surprised to be wrong many times. The characters are complex and hold many secrets; expect your feelings on them to change often as you read.




There was a moment when I genuinely feared the development of a love triangle in this series, but thankfully Sasha’s feelings are never really swayed. If you’re as burned out on LT’s as I am, this is probably going to make you very happy. There is still plenty of relationship drama without the traditional love triangle angst, and hanging over everything is the knowledge that Sasha is in the wrong universe and wants/needs to go home. I love that there was significant time setting up the two main characters in our world, before we even see Aurora, because it gave us a sweet, tentative romance to root for, but also a strong footing in Sasha’s Earth life, so we better understand why she needs to go back.



Tandem was a thoroughly enjoyable experience from start to finish. I do have questions regarding a few big reveals near the end, and I’m hoping the final line in the book “NOT THE END; ONLY THE BEGINNING” and the snazzy ad for the sequel, Tether, mean we will get much more information and closure on a few of these tantalizing plot threads. This is one of those books where you turn the last page and your mind is brimming with theories and “what next?!” questions, but in the meantime I’ll just have to sit on them.


Side note: I think it’s time I added the author, Anna Jarzab, to my auto-buy list. I loved her debut All Unquiet Things, which was a really well done murder mystery, and The Opposite of Hallelujah, a beautifully written literary contemporary. She’s like Maureen Johnson and Robin Wasserman, who comfortably shift genres (contemporary, sci-fi, horror, paranormal, pretty much anything else they feel like writing), while consistently managing to keep me sucked into their stories. I can’t wait to see what Jarzab decides to do next after the Many Worlds series.


Read an excerpt here.



    Ha ha! I must be shallow too because I think that is the only reason I am still reading The Selection series too. 😛

    I am so glad you liked this one, I had a harder time getting in to but I did like the writing style and hey, who wouldn’t want to play princess for a few days?


    The romance sounds great, and I need to look into this one more


    Wow, I think your review is the one that has pushed me to actually really want to read this! It sounds much more interesting now. And I LOVE complicated villains! This sounds fantastic!


    I’ve got this one on my TBR! And I definitely love a little playing Princess too!


    Ohh good world and villains, me likey 😀


    I like settings that seem dreamily mysterious and dangerous and I think Aurora fits right in 🙂 Thanks for sharing your review!


    Lauren, I read a few meh reviews, and heard some peeps saying it took them weeks to read this, and I set it aside, but you and Jenny have me drooling..I love the sound of the world building, so this is going back on my tbr pile 🙂


    Certain death? Psh! Look at that dress! LOL Love that.

    This sounds so good and I am totally adding it to my wishlist.


    That sounds dangerously close to a cliffhanger ending…but I’m dying to read this anyway. Then we can salivate over the awesome outfits and a non-LT love (oh, thank god) together.


    I’m kind of loving the parallel universe trend right now. I haven’t read one I didn’t like. I was afraid this was going into love triangle territory, too, there for a second, but I’m REALLY glad it didn’t. The story didn’t need drama like that with everything else that was going on. I have SOOO many questions now.


    I did get a bit of a triangle vibe … but then she chose the wrong guy — at least I thought so. In love triangles (or sort-of triangles) I always seem to root for the guy that gets ditched.

    And I agree — the science in this was perfect for me– enough to make it believable, but not so much that it overpowered the story.


    Glad you loved this, and found another author to adore! I have yet to read anything by Anna…but I know I should. Yay for great villians. Those are always important. 🙂


    I just adore versatile authors, don’t you? I’m glad Anna Jarzab is one of them. I’m also glad you included a pic from Fringe in your review – Sasha and Juliana reminded me right away of the two Olivias – one good and one not so much. 🙂
    I’m glad the science parts were solid. I don’t know much about physics, but I like when my sci-fi at least sounds convincing. What’s the point otherwise?
    Definitely reading this and soon. Such a lovely review, Lauren.

      Aers ibihc

      I love how the book starts with her past and everything, but as it goes into the middle, I just dont find myself intruged with the conflict. Then when she meets the Prince, something changes and brings me back. The ending just made me want to turn the next page… but sadly all I saw was the back cover. Anyway, the review was great!

      (also xo ajam) 😉


    Oh, how I love this review!! Fringe meets the Princess Diaries?? Dopplegangers? Um, signing up now. And shallow readers of the world UNITE! Seriously, you have me so intrigued! Brilliant review, and I adore the pics!! Thanks for sharing 😀


    This has been on my radar for a long time, but I never got around to it. Very intrigued by the story, though!


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