Review: In the Present Tense by Carrie Pack

★★☆☆☆

ARC provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The premise of this was pretty interesting: Miles, 25, wakes up one morning to find himself lying next to an unfamiliar woman in an unfamiliar house, when he swears he just fell asleep in his bedroom at his parents’ house, age 16, after kissing his boyfriend Adam goodnight. What he’s experiencing is one of many “episodes”, his wife Ana tells him, where he seems to time travel. Retaining the body of his 25-year-old self, his mind reverts to all of the memories and emotions of another version of him, whether past or present.

Right off the bat, if you can’t stand switches in POV or timeline changes in books, this is definitely not for you. Within just the first 10% of the book, the POV switches at least twice, and the character wakes up, goes to sleep, passes out, etc. probably a dozen times in between his episodes. This got pretty irritating quickly.

The plot centers around Miles’ quest to find out why exactly he time travels. Most don’t believe him, and his psychiatrist says that he might have a form of Dissociative Disorder, but Miles swears that there’s more to the story and sets out to find answers, even if those answers have to come from his high-school ex, Adam.

The story started off interesting enough, although the multiple timelines and dates and “versions” of Miles to keep tabs on were difficult to jump right into. I found Miles a pretty boring, undeveloped character with kind of stereotypical behaviors (for instance, when he reverted to his younger self, he was always chewing his thumb, not making eye-contact, shuffling behind people, etc.). All of the characters suffered from being underdeveloped, although Ana was definitely my least favorite. She was really mean and cursed a lot. Overall, I couldn’t connect with any of them.

The reason I gave it two stars is that you can tell the author spent a lot of time working out these timelines, and time travel is a really difficult idea to pull off. The mystery aspect of it, including the secret time travel society and experimentation aspects, were really cool and I was eager to learn about them, making it a fast read.

Unfortunately, this book just wasn’t for me. It felt flat, other than the time travel aspects, and pretty dull, with most of the big scenes being totally glossed over. For instance, when Miles checks himself into a psychiatric center for continuous care, he meets a young girl who says (SPOILER, kinda?) she can time travel too. The two plan an escape, talking about how difficult it will be and all the planning that will go into it… and then the next chapter, they’re already out. The entire escape scene wasn’t included, even though it could have brought some much-needed excitement and action into the story.

The romance between Adam and Miles felt kind of forced, and Ana and Miles together made zero sense to me. They said they fell in love (despite the original, loveless reason for their marriage), but I never felt that Ana loved him, just that she didn’t want him to be alone. Maybe that’s just me.

So yeah. That was kind of harsh. But majorly cheesy dialogue + forced love-triangle/quadrangle/hexagon/whatever + zero action + not-so-great ending = meh. I honestly wanted to give it one star, but it was a fast read and I wanted to give the author props for putting time into it (no pun intended).

P.S. I think there might be a planned sequel, but I don’t think I’ll be reading it.

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