Dissonance by Erica O’Rourke Review: Confusing Alternate Realities

April 29, 2015 by Jeann @ Happy Indulgence | 3 stars, Books, Reviews

Dissonance by Erica O’Rourke Review: Confusing Alternate RealitiesDissonance by Erica O'Rourke
Published by Simon and Schuster Australia on August 14, 2014
Source: Publisher
Genres: Science Fiction, Young Adult
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Delancey Sullivan knows for sure that there is more than one universe. Many more. Because every time someone makes a choice, a new, parallel world spins off the existing one. Eating breakfast or skipping it, turning left instead of right, sneaking out instead of staying in bed - all of these choices create an alternate universe in which an echo self takes the road not travelled. Del knows all of this because she's a Walker, someone who can navigate between the worlds, and whose job is to keep the dimensions in harmony.

But Del's decisions have consequences too. And when she secretly starts to investigate other dissonant worlds she's intrigued by the echo versions of Simon Lane, a guy who won't give her the time of day in the main world, but whose alternate selves are uniquely interested. But falling for Simon draws Del closer to a truth that the Council of Walkers is trying to hide - a secret that threatens the fate of the entire multiverse.

You’d need a physics degree to understand Dissonance, which talks about alternate dimensions in a complex, scientific, confusing way. It took me 2 weeks and multiple books in between to get through it, because every time I picked it up it made my brain hurt.

There’s the Key World, which is the original world where Walkers originate, a secret society of people who can travel through alternate dimensions. They cleave worlds that aren’t needed anymore. Then you’ve got frequencies, echoes, Baroque events, and a whole bunch of technical terminology I couldn’t wrap my head around. Even the little explanations before some chapters didn’t really help, along with the info dumping throughout the book, such as:

Inversions, Baroque events, Echoes that cleaved too fast – something was pulling worlds off balance, creating Echoes too strong and flawed to sustain themselves. 

The concept of alternate dimensions was fascinating though, where every decision creates an alternate dimension that these Walkers can travel to to set the world right. I loved the role of the Walkers in the world and how original and complex the world building was. I’ve read a few books which simply take place in alternate realities, without attempting to explain the science of the universe, and Dissonance makes a good attempt at it…if only it were easier to understand.

Most of the book revolves around the romance, which was disappointing because I couldn’t connect to Del or Simon. Del is brash, stubborn and rebellious, who constantly made decisions I didn’t agree with. She’s attached to Simon, in each multiple world, and rebels against the system and constantly endangers her life and those around her. She lets her feelings for Simon get in the way of safety, logic and her duty to the Key World. Simon was perfectly sweet…and boring.

It wouldn’t be a YA romance without a love triangle, which was rather forced here. Elliot, who is Del’s best friend, spends a lot of his time being jealous and whining about Del rather than showing us why he’s even a suitable candidate.

Everything is possible, for a Walker. The multiverse is infinite, like an ancient tree with branches in every direction, each branch sending out countless shoots, each shoot sprouting an endless number of worlds. 

Del and her sister Addie were constantly at odds with one another. Addie is the prim, perfect stickler for the rules and Del is the rebel, which wasn’t surprising that they didn’t get along, but it would have been nice to see at least some of their love for one another.


Dissonance approached alternate dimensions in a novel and complex way, with heavy world building on the science behind it. Unfortunately, a lot of the technical concepts went over my head, and I couldn’t appreciate it for what it was. A lot of the book focuses on a romance, which took over the whole book, and I couldn’t connect with the characters. I wanted to read more about the work of the Walkers, the alternate realities, instead of a book bogged down by a romance. The search for a good book on alternate realities continues…

Rating: 3 out of 5

Thank you to Simon and Schuster Australia for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review. 

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Jeann is an Aussie YA blogger and mum who loves to read and recommend books! You can usually find me fangirling about books on my various social media channels including Twitter @happyindulgence, Instagram and Youtube.

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43 responses to “Dissonance by Erica O’Rourke Review: Confusing Alternate Realities

  1. Awh, no. I'm sorry you didn't love this one, Jeann! I was actually pleasantly surprised by this one, and ended up really liking it 😀

    I did think the romance was a tad forced, but I was still able to enjoy the book overall. I really liked the explanations for the multiverse theory in this one, and the fact that the author took such care in giving us all the facts we needed to understand it properly. I liked the inclusion of the quotes from the textbooks Del would have been reading at the beginning of each chapter. I felt that they helped with fleshing out the theory, but without giving us info-dumps in the text.

    I think that Addie and Del's relationship will grow in the next book in the series, as they both realise what's going on with the Consort.

    I hope you like the sequel more, Jeann!
    My recent post Review: I’ll Be There by Holly Goldberg Sloan

  2. lorellepage

    Oh my goodness. Alternative realities and they are also confusing? That's a huge no-no for me – both scenarios… I have trouble with dreams and one other dimension :S I have no shame in admitting that I'm a really simple person, and I have simple needs. If someone is moving from one dimension to another, I don't mind if its *poof* I'm in the next one.

  3. Francine Soleil

    This sounds like something I wouldn't really enjoy – the romance taking over the story and the concepts that are too hard to understand. I think I understand how you could get a headache with this one. I've read books like it and it's never a pleasant experience. The covers for this book are gorgeous though. 😛
    My recent post Musings: Looking Back at Old Reviews

  4. I actually really liked the world building in Dissonance! It was probably my favourite aspect of the novel. I liked the science side of things, but it was more the music aspect which was interesting for me! From what I recall, it was actually more music based than science based- do you play an instrument? If not, maybe that's what made it difficult to understand.
    My recent post Read ALL THE BOOKS Update: April

  5. Whoa, that's a whole lot of big new concepts thrown into one book, but I can't imagine many readers being able to understand most of it. Sometimes it seems even with YA science fiction, it becomes too busy and clever, which is great across a three book series, but not packed into one book. The author's imagination in this case doesn't sound as though it translated into world building. Just confusion. I'm not sure I could get into this one without having that connection to the characters either. Which is really shitty, because I bought a copy. Great and well balanced review Jeann, sorry you couldn't have enjoyed this one more <3
    My recent post Just A Queen by Jane Caro

    • Yeah, there are so many concepts that made my brain hurt lol. It was definitely imaginative but yeah, such a shame Kelly! I hope you enjoy it more.

    • Yeah, the science fiction was definitely interesting. Oh no! I've heard great things about that one!

  6. I kind of like Del's rebellious nature although not if it puts others in danger. I wonder how that whole society of Walkers knows which was is the original world. I would be confused too if I were you. I like explanations but build upon them simply. If a reader doesn't understand what you are talking about it makes reading a chore.

    Ugh. Elliot – no. I hate whiners/pining in books and real life.

    It's an interesting concept, but I don't think I would enjoy it. Thanks for the review (:
    My recent post All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

    • Yeah, definitely an interesting concept, but the science was a bit too much to get my head around.

  7. danielleisbusyreading

    I've kept this one on my "maybe" list – I want to see what the response is for the second book… but I'm sorry Dissonance didn't quite work for you. The parallel world does sound fascinating, and I am a romance-junkie, so I probably won't mind that that's such a focal point.. I just don't like the sound of a love triangle. Will have to think about this one – thanks for your review!

  8. So sorry to hear it was not exactly what you had hoped! I always want there to be explanations for the science, so I hope the ones in hear won't go too over my head! What I don't really like is the fact that the romance takes over the book… meh!
    My recent post Waiting On Wednesday #92!!

  9. keionda

    Okay, so reading just the quotes from the book made my brain hurt. It's like… why the heck would I read something that my brain doesn't like? If it's too hard to read best belive that book is going to get tossed way to the side.

  10. I enjoy stories about parallel worlds, but this one sounds quite complicating for a leisure reading. And what a shame that romance aspect was not strong enough to make it better for you.

    Recently I read enjoayble YA contemporary novel on alternate realities – Everything That Makes You by Moriah McStay. So I suggest to check it out if you are looking for books with this specific topic 🙂
    My recent post TWO QUICK REVIEWS: Teacher/Student Romance

    • It was definitely complicated, I just couldn't get my head around it! Thanks for the recommend, I'll check it out 🙂

  11. Physics degree? NO BUENO. Science is pretty much right up my ally… or at least, it's being forced to be up my ally (my mom ended up pulling out a technology gene instead though). But as a high school student currently… I do hate books that sound like textbooks (being oh so technical that I'm spinning in confusion).

    Good luck in search, Jeann! ^_^
    My recent post Blog Tour: Ignite the Shadows – Excerpt + Giveaway

  12. Patty

    Oh god I was excited for this one but I get confused WAY too easily with these kinds of books, so I don't know if this one will end up being for me. It also doesn't sound like the romance is particularly appealing which is something I always look forward to. Thanks for the review!
    My recent post Book Review: On The Fence

  13. I had the same problem with this, Jeann! It was so hard for me to understand all the technicalities and the terminologies. AND I couldn't connect with Del or Simon. 🙁 Sweet and boring, yep. Totally agree. And it seems like he showed up EVERYWHERE, which was both bothersome and creepy.

    Fabulous review, Jeann! Sorry you didn't like this a bit more.
    My recent post Waiting On Wednesday #11: Uprooted

  14. Grace @ RebelMommyBB

    I can't handle a book that makes my brain hurt and is too scientific so definitely a skip on this one – Thanks for the review!
    My recent post Review ~ Confess

  15. Kara Terzis

    Maybe, maybe, maybe I'll give this a chance. What puts me off, though, is that I've read several reviews where people say that it's quite scientifically complex… which is not great for me. I struggled even doing Senior Science at school, haha. xD In a way though, complex explanations means a good, well thought-out worldbuilding.
    My recent post On Heroes &amp; Villains Pt. 2

  16. Ohhh, I'm so glad I decided to skip this one. 0-0 I die at complex scientific stuff. I DIE. (And right now I'm reading Mistborn and crying to myself, eheh), so yes. I hope you find a good alternate reality book soon. 🙁

  17. Lucy

    It sounds really interesting and I'm drawn to the aspect of how the whole concept is scientifically explained. I think I might give it a go when I ever come across it in stores, and since I basically live for science I think it will be right up my ally, but hopefully the romance won't ruin it for me.