I am struggling to think of kind things to say about this book, the chief virtue of which was that it was never so painful or unreadable that I had to leave it unfinished? It is explicitly a young adult riff on It’s A Wonderful Life: a woman on the verge of suicide gets a second chance by experiencing potential past lives through the wonder of “quantum mechanics”. It calls out It’s A Wonderful Life explicitly (it takes place in Bedford; the protagonist wrote a song called Pottersville ), and yet if the valid criticism of It’s A Wonderful Life is that it is too unsubtle and saccharine, The Midnight Library is doubly so. Do not worry about being confused by the message of this book: you will be told its message over and over again, in the form of Instagram captions and Facebook updates and monologues (so many monologues) and some truly awful songwriting.

I am perhaps being too negative. I think the central conceit — a library of all your potential lives! — is lovely, and I think the peak of the book was when we got a whirlwind tour of these lives over the span of paragraphs. There is, I think, a good book in here somewhere, if you remove all the overt messaging and the bizarrely-shoehorned-in quantum mechanics talk and the cop-out ending.

But it is clear that the book I was hoping for and looking for — a book that challenges and perhaps surprises the reader, a book that rewards you for having read it — is not the book the author was attempting to write.

Lightning bolt
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