How do people decide on a path, and find the drive to pursue what they want?
Ida struggles more than other young people to work this out. She can shift between parallel universes, allowing her to follow alternative paths.
One day Ida sees a shadowy, see-through doppelganger of herself on the train. She starts to wonder if she’s actually in control of her ability, and whether there are effects far beyond what she’s considered.
How can she know, anyway, whether one universe is ultimately better than another? And what if the continual shifting causes her to lose what is most important to her, just as she’s discovering what that is, and she can never find her way back?
Ida is an intelligent, diverse and entertaining novel that explores love, loss and longing, and speaks to the condition of an array of overwhelming, and often illusory, choices.
When I heard about Ida for the first time at the YA Showcase in December last year, I knew it sounded like something I’d be interested in reading, but I didn’t know how much I’d fall in love with it. As a science-fiction fan and a lover of Doctor Who, it was impossible for me not to adore Ida and the themes of time-travel and alternate universes. But regardless of my nerdy interests, this is a book I would have loved no matter what. As an advocate for diversity and a supporter of #OwnVoices, I was over the moon to see the amount of diversity in Ida. This novel follows the life of Ida, a self-proclaimed ‘fat asian’ who’s identifies as bisexual and is in a relationship with a genderqueer individual named Daisy. Oh, and Ida can also travel in time. Or so she thinks…
The narrative is formulated around the idea that Ida can time travel to fix things in her immediate past and thus make her present different, such as if she spills tea and decided to skip back in time so she doesn’t spill it. I thought that the way this was shown in the story was really intriguing, but also very clear, demonstrated by paragraphs in italics where Ida seems to be suffocating in some unknowable space and wandering in some direction. I also loved the little spirals that acted as paragraph breakers for these moments, and I found them to symbolically represent Ida’s state of mind when she shifts in time. Every aspect of Ida was meticulously created, and came together to form a novel that is simply phenomenal.
One of the best things about Ida is undoubtably the amount of mystery and intrigue it contains. I loved how the end of each chapter left us on a precipice and demanded we read on, which was good news for finding out what would happen next but bad news for, you know, sleeping. I was constantly on the edge of my seat, desperately trying to figure out what was going to happen and hoping that nothing bad would happen to the characters I’d fallen in love with. There were also some scenes that were quite scary, and even just lines of dialogue would send shivers down my spine. Ida was so atmospheric and spooky — it’s definitely a book to be read with the light on.
Ida was such a great character to get to know, and I welcomed her into my life wholeheartedly. She was the type of person that I think all readers can relate to — a girl who’s finished high school and is struggling to decide what she wants to do with her life while working at a cafe that she hates to earn some money. Her indecision at what she wants to do with her life and what she wants to become is a key concern in the novel, and something that I believe a lot of people would be able to relate to. There was also pain hidden beneath her facade, and trying to figure out what happened in her past was honestly heartbreaking. My heart ached for everything she’d been through and the unfathomable situations she had to navigate through. But I also admired her bravery and strength. Ida’s a character that will be seared on your heart forever. I didn’t want to let her go as I turned the final page.
Daisy was also a character I fell completely in love with. Something I loved about Daisy was that they’re genderqueer, which is something I haven’t read a lot about before. But while them being genderqueer formed some of the major themes of this novel, such as questions about identify and the battles some people face to get recognised for who they truly are, I was pleased to see that it wasn’t their defining characteristic or the thing they were known by. They were artistic and creative, not to mention funny and completely adorable. Their scenes with Ida made my heart sing, and I found their conversations and moments together to be some of the best parts of the narrative. I’d honestly be happy to read a contemporary tale about their lives together. I need more #Daida.
Frank was another person who I adored getting to know. He was such a relatable, witty character who stayed up too late, loved music and was too lazy to reach for the remote when he was lying on the couch. His relationship with Ida was one that was honestly what every cousin wishes to have, and their witty banter made my cheeks ache from smiling so much. I also loved how him being transgender or genderfluid wasn’t a massive part of the narrative and it was seamlessly worked into who he was without, like Daisy, being his defining characteristic. And even thinking about that now, me not knowing how to define him is exactly the point — it doesn’t matter how he identifies because a) it’s none of my business and b) it shows that how people identify shouldn’t be made a big deal of and we should accept people no matter how they identify. But there was a particular scene where he was talking about wearing a binder which was the first time I realised he wasn’t cis-male, which is assumably how most people would read him as. I just felt that it not being called upon before that moment shows how naturally diversity was weaved into the story and serves as an example to how other novels should portray their characters. We need more books like Ida.
As I touched on before, my favourite part of Ida was how the diversity was worked so seamlessly into the narrative and how it was all presented so casually and naturally. It made me realise that so many books are trying to be obviously diverse and failing because these characters feel forced into the plot or they abide by stereotypes. I loved how these people were just there and how genuine these characters were, and it really showed me the need for more diverse books written like this one. For any aspiring authors, I can’t recommending picking up a copy of Ida enough. It was so well-written and the characters were vibrant and alive, not to mention the dialogue that was constantly on point. Everything about this book was flawless, and I’m so pleased it was chosen as the Book Of The Month for a book club I co-host — The YA Room.
Ultimately, Ida is a thrilling and exceptionally brilliant novel that will make you question your own reality and the impact of fate and choosing your own path in life. This novel filled me with the knowledge that sometimes bad things happen without a reason, and sometimes we wish we could change things in the past, but every choice we made forms the person we are today, and whether we are where we want to be or not, we wouldn’t be the same without all our failures and triumphs. Read Ida. You won’t regret it.
Have you read Ida yet? Do you know about The YA Room book club that I co-host? What are some of your favourite YA novels with LGBTQIA+ main characters? Let’s chat about our favourites!
Thanks to Bonnier Australia for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!