Sometimes a publisher will hit on a winning formula for a book and suddenly we’ll see the publishing slate with similar titles. Similar jackets. Similar titles.
One of these mini-trends recently has seen the full name of the protagonist appears in the title with reference to an unlikely quantity of their death.
I avoid picking up these books, because I’ve read one of them and though I liked it, I don’t want to read it again. I want something new. It’s not necessarily an approach of book selection I recommend – it’s often just a marketing ploy and the book itself is very much its own story.
The latest book to prove me wrong is The First Time Lauren Pailing Died by Alyson Rudd.
Lauren Pailing is a young girl when she first discovers there is something different about her. Occasionally, she can get glimpses into other worlds where things are different to hers. Sometimes they’re only small differences, other times they’re big ones.
She thinks this is normal, but when she starts to receive funny looks from her parents, her teachers, her friends she starts to self-censor about what she reveals.
Then she dies.
Except she doesn’t. In the moment before her death, Lauren gets a glimpse at another life, one where she doesn’t die in the accident, and she travels through to it.
The timeline splinters and – much like Sliding Doors with Gwyneth Paltrow – we follow the different worlds as the same characters traverse different events, and each of them deal with grief.
In one world, her parents deal with the grief of losing their child. In another, Lauren deals with the grief of losing her old life and having to adjust to this new one where things are ever so slightly different.
Later in life, Lauren shifts again and in her latest world, she starts trying to investigate what has happened to her. We end up following a few different worlds, which sounds like it could be confusing, but Rudd cleverly ensures we follow a different character in each one.
The concept of parallel worlds is explored, but only obliquely. The bizarreness of the worlds is only lightly touched upon by Lauren who can sense that things are different, but isn’t quite sure what.
There’s only one jarring moment when discussing the differences which makes the reader realise just how different the world is, but I sense this is purposeful from Rudd. The point of this book isn’t the things that change between the worlds – it’s the things that stay the same.
The characters are all grieving, all of them going through the same thing and you root for them all, even though, they can’t all possibly be happy in all worlds.
I’m giving The First Time Lauren Pailing Died 7.9 out of 10. You can order your copy now for just £8.99