A Goodreads Most Anticipated Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Horror Book of 2024
For fans of Never Let Me Go and The Giver, an elegant and exhilarating literary speculative novel about an isolated town neighbored by its own past and future, and a young girl who spots two elderly visitors from across the border: the grieving parents of the boy she loves.
Sixteen-year-old Odile is an awkward, quiet girl vying for a coveted seat on the Conseil. If she earns the position, she’ll decide who may cross her town’s heavily guarded borders. On the other side, it’s the same valley, the same town. Except to the east, the town is twenty years ahead in time. To the west, it’s twenty years behind. The towns repeat in an endless sequence across the wilderness.
When Odile recognizes two visitors she wasn’t supposed to see, she realizes that the parents of her friend Edme have been escorted across the border from the future, on a mourning tour, to view their son while he’s still alive in Odile’s present.
Edme—who is brilliant, funny, and the only person to truly see Odile—is about to die. Sworn to secrecy in order to preserve the timeline, Odile now becomes the Conseil’s top candidate. Yet she finds herself drawing closer to the doomed boy, imperiling her entire future.
A breathlessly moving “unique take on the intersection of fate and free will” (Nikki Erlick, author of The Measure), The Other Valley is “a stellar debut, full of heartbreak and hope wrapped up in gorgeous prose” (Christina Dalcher, author of Vox).
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
The idea of time travel takes on a beautiful, almost philosophical tone in this quiet speculative novel. Sixteen-year-old Odile’s community is bordered by fences. To the west is the same exact town, but 20 years in the past. To the east is the same town 20 years in the future. People may only visit between towns under very controlled circumstances—usually to catch a glimpse of a dead loved one for one last time. So when Odile accidentally spots future versions of her friend Edme’s parents in her town, she knows what it means for Edme. The dilemma Odile faces might seem strange at first, but Scott Alexander Howard uses this setup to reflect universal experiences, like accepting the painful or difficult things in life that we can’t change. Along the way, he crafts wonderfully three-dimensional characters and just the right amount of compelling lore. If you enjoyed The Giver, you’ll love this story about fate, responsibility, and learning to let go.
Howard debuts with a moving tale of time travel and teen friendship. Odile, 16, grows up in an unnamed valley town that serves as a kind of administrative buffer zone between the past and the future. Bordering to the west is an identical town that is 20 years behind her own, and to the east, Odile's same town 20 years ahead. Residents of each iteration are only allowed to visit another timespace if they get approval from a governing body called the Conseil, which only grants permission to those grieving a loved one's untimely death, so they can view the person from a distance while the person is still alive. Odile's school offers an apprentice program for various trades, and she is vying for a coveted spot in the Conseil. One day on the schoolyard, she sees three masked people in the distance, looking at her classmate Edme, and realizes they are time travelers, which means that Edme will prematurely die. An unexpected friendship forms between the two, but when the Conseil learns of Odile's discovery, they urge her not to intervene in Edme's fate. She can't help herself, however, and her actions lead to surprising and heartrending results. This will leave readers with plenty to chew on.