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Most people at one time or another dream of trading lives with someone who seems to have it all---but in Gretchen McNeil’s expertly woven tale that dream becomes a horror-filled reality.

Josie Byrne’s world is slowly splintering into pieces. Her parents are getting a divorce, her boyfriend Nick and her best friend commit the ultimate betrayal, and having a brilliant scientist for a mother makes her high school physics class torturous. Josie would give anything to escape this life she hardly recognizes anymore---and that’s when the dreams begin.

"McNeil beautifully juxtaposes the eerie alternate world with the bright, indomitable will of her characters to battle both supernatural and human threats alike."

Every night at 3:59, Josie’s subconscious slips into Jo’s world, a world that seems to have everything Josie is now missing. When Josie wakes to see Jo’s face in her bedroom mirror, she realizes that they are doppelgängers living in alternate universes that overlap every 12 hours, and that the mirror is the portal connecting her to the perfect world she desperately seeks. When both girls, envious of each other’s lives, agree to switch places for a period of 24 hours, Josie becomes trapped in Jo’s universe and quickly discovers the duplicitous nature of her doppelgänger. Josie’s illusions about Jo’s life are completely shattered when she encounters the true horrors that exist in this foreign universe; everyone is afraid of Jo, and that fear is only overshadowed by the vicious creatures, called the Nox, that haunt the night and make it impossible for anyone to go outside after dark.

The only hope for Josie lies with Nick, but not the hurtful Nick she is used to; the Nick in Jo’s world immediately realizes Josie is not who she is pretending to be and is actually a lost stranger in this dark, cruel life. It is not long before Josie develops feelings for him that pale in comparison to anything she felt before; this Nick is strong, brave and will do anything to get Josie back home --- even if it means losing her forever. As they work together and try to stave off the Nox attacks, they realize that these creatures may not be as uncontrollable as everyone thinks, and that someone has just made Josie and Nick their next target.

3:59 is a fast-paced thriller that puts an original and emotionally riveting spin on the sci-fi phenomenon of parallel universes. McNeil beautifully juxtaposes the eerie alternate world with the bright, indomitable will of her characters to battle both supernatural and human threats alike. Although the physics of trying to explain the connection between the two worlds can sometimes overly convolute the narrative, Josie’s brainy scientific musings are endearing and her drive to reunite with her family really brings her character to life. The shady plot twists and paranormal anomalies leave both Josie and the reader unsure of whom to trust --- in either world. As the novel races toward a literally earth-shaking conclusion, Josie is tasked with deciding which world is she meant to live in, and what people can she bear to live without?

Reviewed by Sabrina Abballe on September 9, 2013

by Gretchen McNeil

  • Publication Date: September 17, 2013
  • Genres: Young Adult 13+
  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Balzer + Bray
  • ISBN-10: 0062118811
  • ISBN-13: 9780062118813