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Review: 3:59 by Gretchen McNeil


Josie Byrne’s life is spiraling out of control. Her parents are divorcing, her boyfriend Nick has grown distant, and her physics teacher has it in for her. When she’s betrayed by the two people she trusts most, Josie thinks things can’t get worse.

Until she starts having dreams about a girl named Jo. Every night at the same time—3:59 a.m.

Jo’s life is everything Josie wants: she’s popular, her parents are happily married, and Nick adores her. It all seems real, but they’re just dreams, right? Josie thinks so, until she wakes one night to a shadowy image of herself in the bedroom mirror – Jo. 

Josie and Jo realize that they are doppelgängers living in parallel universes that overlap every twelve hours at exactly 3:59. Fascinated by Jo’s perfect world, Josie jumps at the chance to jump through the portal and switch places for a day.

But Jo’s world is far from perfect. Not only is Nick not Jo’s boyfriend, he hates her. Jo’s mom is missing, possibly insane. And at night, shadowy creatures feed on human flesh.

By the end of the day, Josie is desperate to return to her own life. But there’s a problem: Jo has sealed the portal, trapping Josie in this dangerous world. Can she figure out a way home before it’s too late?

My thoughts

I blame my disappointment with this book on two things. 1) I had very high expectations because I loved her two previous books. 2) I expected a very geeky scifi story that would concentrate on the parallel world stuff but often didn’t.

What I liked about the book:

+ Parallel universes

+ Geeky main character

Josie:”We cannot use the hundred-kilovolt X-ray free-electron prototype from my mom’s lap,okay?

If you are into physics, sentences likes these that are spread all through the book will make you like this book. Not only is Josie into physics but she really knows her stuff. Gretchen actually describes in some details how these parallel universes are possible. She goes even so far that you can imagine it, that it feels real.

+ Mysterious deaths, lots of them 

Who said anything about a serial killer?” – “Sixteen dead bodies in six months, their gruesome, dismembered, and half-eaten remains left in the woods in the dead of night?

+ Small unsuspected turn in the second half of the story

After a problematic first half it got better in the second one. The story focused more on physics than everyday problems and began to be rather gripping.

What I didn’t like about the book:

+ Some things are exaggerated/unrealistic

In my opinion the betrayal by her friends went a bit over the top. In its basics this is of course something that happens in everyday life but in this case it escalated and was just too much. It felt like Gretchen just wanted to let Josie suffer as much as possible. I also didn’t like that Josie started to think that she is somewhat responsible for what happened.

+ Very predictable

I usually don’t mind stories being predictable but in this case it made Josie feel extremely stupid. She didn’t notice even the most obvious things and always took too long to get it.

+ Couldn’t relate to the characters

I didn’t like even one character. I’m not sure why that is. They sure are not meant to be not likeable. It’s not that I hated them but I just didn’t care for them.

+ Cheesy love story

The love story is the one thing that bothered me a whole lot during the second half. Not only did I not understand how she could fall for this guy after what she’s been through but it was also kind of interfering with the actual plot.


The idea about 3:59 is awesome and in some ways I liked how Gretchen played around with these parallel universes but there are a few things that bothered me too much too really enjoy the story. Mainly because of the main characters I had a hard time getting into the book and didn’t like its first half. The second half improved a lot and was a lot more exciting but the love story still kept me from really liking the book. I wish Gretchen had at least decided to drop the very last part and kept the end more open.

3:59 by

Published September 17, 2013