Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Loop

The Loop
Shandy Lawson
Hyperion Books, 2013
$16.99, Hardcover

Genre: Action, Mystery
Age: 12+
Description: Ben and Maggie are 16-year-old teens who have met, fallen in love, and been murdered together time and time again. See they are stuck in a “loop”—reliving the same two days again and again. Maggie has been stuck in loops before in her life and, because of it, has the ability to retain memories of what has happened in previous loop cycles. Ben, on the other hand, is new to the looping phenomena but seems to have a special ability to begin remembering things and keeping those memories alive when a new loop cycle begins again. As Maggie explains to Ben when the novel begins, they fall victim to a man named Roy who murders them in the back store room of a Walgreens in Shreveport, Louisiana. The book follows the struggles of Ben and Maggie over two days as they attempt desperately to change fate and get out of the loop they are stuck in.
Opinion: This is a quickly paced, short novel (one of my teens read it in one sitting). I like how the first half of the book is told in Ben’s perspective as he experiences another loop cycle and begins, for the first time, to remember things and begin resisting the pull of fate in an attempt to change things. Once they fail, the second half of the book tells the next cycle from Maggie’s point of view and readers get to experience her angle on the loops especially since she has fought them before and can remember most things. I think the duel-perspective will appeal to both genders (as two of my teens to write reviews on the book both loved it and they are opposite genders). My main problem with the book, and I hope it is caught before April publication, is that there are some glaring errors in the timing of things. My teens didn’t notice it so maybe no one else will pay attention but it caught my eye and maybe it’s because I have a background in editing. Basically, the book is supposed to take place over the course of two days. When Ben meets Maggie on the first day and they go to the Mission to spend the night in safety while they make plans Ben asks Maggie when it is that they die. She tells him “Sunday night at nine-thirty.” Ben comments that that is 29 hours and 30 minutes from “right now” which is 4 p.m. on Saturday afternoon. The next chapter has them sleeping the rest of Saturday night at the Mission and waking up on Sunday morning when they decide to take different buses far away from Shreveport and go their separate ways because if they aren’t together come 9:30 p.m. then maybe they won’t die and the loop will be broken. So Ben gets on one bus and gets off in a small town called Alexandria. There he stops at a computer store and decides to email his parents to let them know he is safe. While checking his messages it says that he received one from his math teacher with “today’s homework.” I don’t know what school Ben goes to but I don’t think any other teen would want to go since that means he attends school on Sundays. The novel opened up on Saturday morning. If anything it should say he had a message from his teacher from “Friday” or with “Friday’s homework” in it. Also keeping in mind that it is now Sunday morning, he then stops at a diner for some food and sees a report on the TV about Roy, who happens to be a criminal no matter what day of the loop they are stuck in. He’s been robbing a lot of small towns in the area. But Ben’s narration comments that Roy is not just “a criminal tomorrow night in Shreveport”. Tomorrow, at this time, would be Monday night. Roy kills them on Sunday night. Once again, the timing is off.
Of another note, supposedly with the Loop if you deny it, it will try to get you back on course. Like how Ben and Maggie split up at the bus stop and eventually Maggie finds her way to the town Ben stopped in, putting them back together and back on course. In one instance, when they deviate course in the French Quarter and a bunch of cops start following them from out of nowhere they believe this is the Loop getting them back on course to Shreveport. Seriously? It’s a whole day later and they changed their appearances (after a bad mishap in a mall where Roy gets shot and they get accused of attempted murder) and one cop sees them in the park and automatically knows that these are the kids wanted by the police? What happened to Roy? So the cops can identify Ben and Maggie even though they look totally different but Roy gets off free even though, as we learned on the news report, he is wanted for 11 robberies in two months? Plus, Maggie says that Roy can’t remember much about the events of previous cycles yet each time we see Roy encounter Ben and Maggie in the book he clearly has been going to Shreveport on purpose and actually comments on the changes to the usual routine that Ben and Maggie has attempted to make. Other random inconsistencies are when Ben and Maggie get in a horrible car crash and they split ways with Ben going to confront Roy and Maggie going to the horse track to try to win the money Roy steals from them. Maggie could barely walk because of her injuries. Do they just miraculously heal? How does she get to the track? I think they should have just avoided going gambling in the first place and done nothing until Sunday night came and went. If they don’t have anything Roy wants they why would he kill them? The ending obviously ends with them getting free from the loop but ends with “a moment of déjà vu” which suggests another loop coming on which is, to me, a clichéd and disappointing ending.

But don’t get me wrong. The book was a quick read and if one doesn’t notice the timing issues and some of the plot inconsistencies they won’t be bothered at all. Teens will enjoy the story.

Here’s what some of my teens had to say:

Elliot, 13, says, “In The Loop, two lovers are doomed to die (and attempt to change the outcome as they keep repeating the events leading to their death over and over again like a messed up Groundhog Day) simply because Fate wants them too. As they try to change Fate, She fights back and they end up in the city of their constant doom waiting to see if they succumb to the same fate again and again and again. I think the cover was stupid and had nothing to do with the story. I decided to read the book based solely on the description which sounded awesome.  I liked that while there was some love aspect to the story it could appeal to both guys and girls because there were perspectives from both characters. I am a Christian so I am against swearing of which there was some in the book. I understand though that a lot of teens do swear so it is realistic to have some bad words in a book and I won’t hold that against a book if it is really good.”

Haley, 17, says, “An interesting science fiction book with non-stop action. A great story on how love can conquer all—even death.  I wasn’t really disappointed with anything really. The cover has a broken clock which I guess was to represent being caught in a time loop and breaking free but it really wasn’t enough detail to suggest what the book was about to the reader. My favorite part was definitely the action-orientated plot.” 

Keyahna, 16, says, “The Loop is a suspenseful, action-packed thriller. It was like a five star movie that by the end you are talking about years later. It is an awesome book about two teens stuck reliving the moment of their murder over and over and over again and their struggle to fight back and change fate. I think the cover reflects the book well. The broken clock represents the shattering of time and lives. The suspense of the plot was the most compelling aspect and it really propels readers forward, making them want to read more. This book was so good I’m speechless. I really loved this book. The only bad thing about it was that it constantly repeated some circumstances over and over again, which is understandable because of the plot but it would have been phenomenal if there was an even bigger twist! It also got a little boring in the middle but then picked up speed again. Other than that, it was a very good book. I think it would make an even better movie. I also found myself drawing loops all over my papers when I was reading this book because it was on my mind so much.”  

*Thanks to Heather Crowley at Disney Book Group for providing an ARC of this title for the YA Galley Group project!*

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