Ahoy there mateys! Though the First Mate and I have very different reading tastes, occasionally we do recommend books to each other. Books the first mate introduced to me included xom-b, holes, and the perks of being a wallflower. He and I both read the following:
oona out of order (Margarita Montimore)
We read and talked about the book and I enjoyed his viewpoint so I
ordered asked him to write a review. So you get one from me and a bonus additional review from me crew. Please note that I write like I talk and the first mate writes like he thinks. Hope you enjoy!
From the Captain:
Time travel books are either very hit or very, very miss with me but I can’t help but hope every time a new one comes out. The premise of this book is exactly what it sounds like – from age 18, Oona lives her life out of order. She gets a year older mentally but jumps around to different years in her life. The First Mate read this one and warned me I wouldn’t probably like it. I just had to try for meself because of the cool premise.
And I hated it. The main character is selfish, stupid, whiny, and just so frickin’ selfish. And shallow, immature, self-absorbed, and lacking in any real introspection. Then there are the super boring plot “twists.” The author had to take the even seemingly fun aspects like Oona’s assistant and ruin it. Or how she dealt with all of her love interests. They sucked. Then there was the mom who had potential that wasn’t used. Every time I thought it might take a better turn, it sadly didn’t.
So why did I finish? It was the only audiobook I had in the car for my long journey. And at least I could vent about it to the First Mate. Who was kind enough not to say “I told ye so.” Arrr!
From the First Mate:
I remember making a friend laugh by saying that I wouldn’t trust a future me telling me to do something because I couldn’t be sure “they’d have my best interests at heart.” I was most likely thinking about the Evil Bill and Ted from Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey when making that statement. In reality, I can’t imagine what would make a future me want to do anything other than help a present or past me. It’s possible that my inability to understand such a thing
prevented me from enjoying Oona Out of Order more.
Time travel being my favorite sci-fi/fantasy trope, I was definitely onboard for the premise here. Every New Year after her 18th birthday sees Oona’s consciousness jump to another, randomly non-sequential year in her life. We see her very first jump, thirty years into the future, where she receives a letter from a previous (and older) self, explaining the situation of what’s going on. We find that she’s got a reliable support network in her mother and her assistant who both know what’s going on and they are, in that first jump, the most understanding and helpful people one could be fortunate enough to
stumble upon. All pretty great. Nothing much happens in that first jump, mind you, but we learn the parameters of the premise and get introduced to the two other important characters in this tale.
We also learn that financial advice aside, future versions of Oona are not going to be helping her out. This weird decision, hand-waved away with a statement that knowing what’s coming will rob Oona of the joy of living, pretty much ruined the book for me. I honestly cannot fathom why future versions of Oona would not wish to help out or prepare present Oona for the year that is to come. In more than one instance Oona is even put in a precarious position for the disorientation of the consciousness jump. If I knew that someone else was going to be taking over for my consciousness at 12:01am on January 1, you can be damn sure that at 11:59pm on December 31 I’d be in a safe location with copious notes. Not Oona, though. That wouldn’t be fun.
I’m probably being too harsh in that the book I was hoping Oona Out of Order would be wasn’t the one that Montimore was looking to write. To a degree, I was hoping for a somewhat in depth examination of what it would mean to have one’s consciousness jump randomly and non-sequentially from one year to another (like Slaughterhouse Five but without the war and the aliens). To have both the certainty that one will get through whatever is currently going on coupled with the extra certainty that the next year may just as likely be in the past as in the future. I wanted the book to do more with the advantages Oona had with regards to knowing how various things turned out. I wanted more desperation of living in the moment because Oona would never know when she’d next be able to pick up any particular year she was living. I wanted many more years than we’re given.
Montimore seems to have been interested in telling a “you gotta take life as it comes” story. Which, okay. Not a bad message. And, I suppose the book more or less succeeds at showing the reader that there are always joys to find in life even when there is so much uncertainty. But Oona is constantly making stupid and selfish decisions that wouldn’t have to be made if her future selves merely decided to help out on the journey. I realize that we’re getting Oona from 18-26 and those are years when decisions are not always the absolute best, reasoned, or unselfish, but these decisions were just particularly bad. And her future, older selves surely would have wanted to mitigate some of those bad decisions, wouldn’t they?
And we only get less than a dozen different years with two of them being sequential (amplifying the stupid and selfish decisions). And we’re hardly getting a random distribution of Oona’s years here; not even a decently semi-random distribution curated for dramatic or narrative effect. And we’re robbed of the most important and potentially fascinating discussion that the book could have given us: how she reveals to her mother what’s going on.
I guess when I really think about the book I realize that I didn’t like the main character, I thought the premise was poorly used, I didn’t care about any of the secondary characters, and none of the eras that Oona jumped to felt fleshed out in any particular way. One could imagine a version of this book where the character started the jumps in 1918 and whipsawed back and forth through the century, meeting people and examining the many changes that occurred over that time period. Or even a version that started, as this one does, in 1982 and half of the jumps dealt with a future that hasn’t happened yet. As it is, there was very little to distinguish one year from another in this book, other than some mentions of technology and the aging of the characters. This is one of those books where I’m left with the troublesome thought of, “I wish someone else had written it.”
I don’t think I’d recommend this one to anyone.
Goodreads has this to say about the novel:
A remarkably inventive novel that explores what it means to live a life fully in the moment, even if those moments are out of order.
It’s New Year’s Eve 1982, and Oona Lockhart has her whole life before her. At the stroke of midnight she will turn nineteen, and the year ahead promises to be one of consequence. Should she go to London to study economics, or remain at home in Brooklyn to pursue her passion for music and be with her boyfriend? As the countdown to the New Year begins, Oona faints and awakens thirty-two years in the future in her fifty-one-year-old body. Greeted by a friendly stranger in a beautiful house she’s told is her own, Oona learns that with each passing year she will leap to another age at random. And so begins Oona Out of Order…
Hopping through decades, pop culture fads, and much-needed stock tips, Oona is still a young woman on the inside but ever changing on the outside. Who will she be next year? Philanthropist? Club Kid? World traveler? Wife to a man she’s never met? Surprising, magical, and heart-wrenching, Margarita Montimore has crafted an unforgettable story about the burdens of time, the endurance of love, and the power of family.
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