Author: Sharon Shinn
Page Count: 281 pages
Genre: young adult, time travel, fantasy
Copy for review provided by Other Shelf Tours in exchange for an honest review
50 words or less: Daiyu lives in modern day St. Louis but finds fitting in difficult. When she's suddenly transported to a parallel world, charged with a quest, and presented with the perfect guy, will she follow her head? Her heart? Or something else?
Gateway was kind of an impulse grab for me. I haven't read anything by this author before, and I tend to stay away from time travel books just because I have a hard time reading them without imagining the better bits of the Back to the Future movies. This book, however, was worth the time, and overall was an enjoyable experience.
Normally, I find myself drawn to character-driven books. I like to know what folks are thinking and why they do the things that they do. Gateway is a little bit different in that it is a theme-driven book. The characters themselves don't get all that much development; we get the basics about them, their lives and their roles in this world but the real meat and potatoes of the story is on carefully unpacking a variety of really complex but important ideas.
I freely admit, it's difficult to review this book without giving something away, but here are the salient points: As the result of a trick, Daiyu is transported to Jia, a world similar to but different from Earth. Turns out there are a bunch of these worlds that adventurous people can travel between if they're shown the way. Daiyu was brought to this world for a specific purpose; to get close to the prime minister of the area of this world in which she lands and send him travelling back to his original world (he's a pretty nefarious dude and wreaks havoc wherever he goes.) To do this, she's going to have to pretend to be a fancy lady and learn to dance, dress, and act rich. To further stir the proverbial soup, Daiyu's fallen in love with Kalen, a working man who happens to be associated with this plot, but is way beneath the social standing of Daiyu's wealthy persona.
A whole boodle of issues get introduced into this story pretty much from the get-go. Daiyu is Chinese and, in her regular world, was adopted by white American parents. Her original world reflects Earth as we know it, with the U.S. being laid out where it is and St. Louis being in the middle of the U.S. In the parallal world she gets sent to, though, history is completelt different; the world is dominated by the Han, who represent Asian culture, and white and African-American people are frowned upon minorities. Kalen, her love interest, is white, so he's taboo for two reasons now- one racial, one social.
Daiyu is a sensible girl and acts sensibly throughout the course of the book, which ends up being the source of many problems for her. She considers EVERY facet of EVERY problem and EVERY potential outcome; unfortunately, while she's doing that, other people have thought about things, made decisions, and acted on them. It's an interesting lesson on the dangers of overthinking things. Passion and spontanaeity aren't bad things.
Daiyu also has to learn some painful but dangerous lessons on the perils of letting other people do your thinking for you. Politics is a frequent subject in this book and Daiyu almost falls into the trap of thinking that things are not her problem when in fact they're everyone's problem; luckily she comes to her senses in time. This would be a great book to get a conversation started on the importance of involvement and being connected to your world, on being informed and on knowing how to analyze information for honesty, accuracy and integrity.
To be fair, this isn't a perfect book. The character development wasn't as thorough as I normally prefer and a great many story elements were explained and then we as readers were supposed to just suspend our disbelief and accept that things happened the way they did. There were other story elements that seemed important but that never materialized into anything; the version of the book I read was an uncorrected proof so that could have been changed in the final copy. Nonetheless, this is an interesting, honest, and multifaceted book with many lessons to take from it.
Overall Grade: B+