arc review · dnf diaries

DNF Diaries: Into the Dim

It’s time for another installment of DNF Diaries, in which I share the books that I abandoned, and explain why I didn’t finish reading them. I know DNFing books is still a somewhat touchy subject in the book community, but one of my Bookish Resolutions for 2016 was to not be afraid to DNF books. Life’s too short to read bad books.

Today’s DNF Diaries post is about Into the Dim by Janet B. Taylor. I received an eARC of this via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review, so…I’ll be honest here. Into the Dim is published on March 1, 2016, and it joins the ranks of the recent influx of time travel YA novels. Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite stack up. I DNF’ed this book at 51% and haven’t regretted that life choice.

“When fragile, sixteen-year-old Hope Walton loses her mom to an earthquake overseas, her secluded world crumbles. Agreeing to spend the summer in Scotland, Hope discovers that her mother was more than a brilliant academic, but also a member of a secret society of time travelers. And she’s alive, though currently trapped in the twelfth century, during the age of Eleanor of Aquitaine. Hope has seventy-two hours to rescue her mother and get back to their own time. Passing through the Dim, Hope enters a brutal medieval world of political intrigue, danger, and violence. A place where any serious interference could alter the very course of history. And when she meets a boy whose face is impossibly familiar, she must decide between her mission and her heart—both of which could leave Hope trapped in the past forever. Addictive, romantic, and rich with historical detail, Into the Dim is an Outlander for teens.”

The Good: Thanks to many years spent in the Doctor Who fandom, I am predisposed to want to like time travel stories. And Into the Dim has the most interesting time travel period of its contemporaries (no Antebellum period corsets and such here) because Hope and her fellow travelers go back in time to the court of Eleanor of Aquitaine and Henry II of England. I was so excited to read a story set in this time, because Eleanor of Aquitaine was such an amazing figure in history. So really, the good parts of this book were how excited I was about Eleanor, and that time travel is inherently a cool concept.

The Bad: Into the Dim follows the same basic premise as every other time travel story that’s come out this year, or is slated to come out this year: young girl is separated from her mother, only to find out that – surprise! – time travel is real and she has to go on a quest to the past in order to save her mother. Paternity, if unknown, will be a latent plot point for twisty plot effect.  Rinse and repeat. Passenger did this, Into the Dim did this, and The Girl From Everywhere did this slightly differently. It’s a tired premise at this point, and I’m done with reading it over and over again.

Further, the actual apparatus behind time travel was like every possible time travel explanation rolled into one…ley lines! Tesla coils! Super computer tech things! Way too convoluted.

The Ugly: Hope Walton does not have a personality. If she does, it is so nondescript that the only word the publisher could come up with to describe her in the blurb above is fragile. I never felt connected to her, or cared about her, and her characterization felt inconsistent while still not managing to construct a personality for our dear protagonist. I don’t mind an unlikable main character, but I cannot stand an annoying or boring main character. Hope is both.

Many characters in this story are Scottish, and it’s clear from the blurb that this is Outlander for teens or something, but good lord. The way Taylor writes the Scottish characters was unbearable. If I had a dollar for every time she wrote “och,” I could cut my student loans in half. Every Scottish character felt beyond cliché, and the Outlander angle was pushed awkwardly and too hard. At the half way point, we’re very obviously being set up for a love triangle between Hope, a fellow traveler, and another guy who is even more obviously part of the rival/evil group of time travelers. I just can’t.

The worst part, and the most damning, is that I didn’t think about this book when I wasn’t reading it. In fact, I never thought about how much I want to continue reading, or see what happened next. I still don’t. And ultimately, I knew I had to DNF this book or I would end up with an underwhelming to the point of infuriating two star read.

Into the Dim doesn’t come out until March 1, but if you’re interested in reading this book, I’d recommend saving your money and checking it out from the library instead.

What’s the last book you DNF’ed?

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