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YA Book Review: A World Without You

The following review of A World Without You (July 19, 2016 Razor Bill) by Beth Revis is by Food, Fitness and Fiction Contributing Editor Joshua Flores (pictured below).

Here is a description of A World Without You from Amazon:

Seventeen-year-old Bo has always had delusions that he can travel through time. When he was ten, Bo claimed to have witnessed the Titanic hit an iceberg, and at fifteen, he found himself on a Civil War battlefield, horrified by the bodies surrounding him. So when his concerned parents send him to a school for troubled youth, Bo assumes he knows the truth: that he’s actually attending Berkshire Academy, a school for kids who, like Bo, have “superpowers.”

At Berkshire, Bo falls in love with Sofia, a quiet girl with a tragic past and the superpower of invisibility. Sofia helps Bo open up in a way he never has before. In turn, Bo provides comfort to Sofia, who lost her mother and two sisters at a very young age.

But even the strength of their love isn’t enough to help Sofia escape her deep depression. After she commits suicide, Bo is convinced that she’s not actually dead. He believes that she’s stuck somewhere in time — that he somehow left her in the past, and now it’s his job to save her.  

Not since Ned Vizzini’s It’s Kind of a Funny Story has there been such a heartrending depiction of mental illness. In her first contemporary novel, Beth Revis guides readers through the mind of a young man struggling to process his grief as he fights his way through his delusions. As Bo becomes more and more determined to save Sofia, he has to decide whether to face his demons head-on, or succumb to a psychosis that will let him be with the girl he loves.




Bo may only be seventeen years old, but he is also a time traveler—at least in his own mind. For as long as he can remember, he has been able to transport himself throughout time and his own memories. But Bo is very sick, and his parents decide that it is best for him to be placed in a school known as The Academy. He lives there with a select group of students his age who all suffer from mental illness—or as Bo would call it, “super powers.” But when Bo’s best friend at school, Sofia, dies suddenly, his life begins to unravel. While everyone accepts her death, Bo believes that she never really died, but was simply lost in time. And he has taken it upon himself to save her. Through a series of flashbacks, family struggles, and a race against time, Bo discovers the true value of relationships, the pain of mental illness, and the difficulty of moving on.

Beth Revis has written various other novels including Across the Universe, but her latest, A World Without You, beautifully displays the complicity of mental illness and self-discovery. I found Bo’s story to be heart-breaking, but also hopeful. While the story can be extremely intense and emotional, Revis always makes sure to add in a bit of humor or hope to help readers get through the tragedy of the novel.

Another aspect of the novel that I truly enjoyed was the dual narration of the novel, which includes the perspectives of both Bo and his sister, Phoebe. Both characters were very insightful and portrayed with extreme honesty. It was interesting as a reader to be inside of the head of both a teenager with mental illness and a teen who is affected by her brother’s struggles. Their powerful voices gave me a better picture of mental illness and how it affects one’s family life.

While there was not much to complain about in A World Without You, at times I became frustrated with the story. It seems reasonable that at first Bo doesn’t realize he is delusional, but he continues to believe he is a time traveler throughout the book. I wanted to scream out and tell him, because the fact that he didn’t realize this was incredibly heart-wrenching. Part of me likes the emotional intensity, but during the reading experience, it became a bit overwhelming.

Overall, I enjoyed A World Without You. Bo and Phoebe were spectacular characters. The main struggle of the novel—the pain that beats out of its heart—was beautiful, yet painful to read. Similar to It’s Kind of a Funny Story and All the Bright Places, Beth Revis’ novel is sure to impact teens and adults alike. For readers looking to experience the struggles of mental illness and the healing that comes with discovering yourself, A World Without You could not be a better fit.

Full disclosure: Razorbill provided me with an ARC of A World Without You for review purposes.

To learn more about Revis and her work, visit her website. And for more reviews of A World Without You, click on the following links:

Kirkus Reviews

Eater of Books

Publishers Weekly

YA Books Central

YA Wednesdays


Joshua Flores, a junior from Tustin, California is currently an editor for the Beckman Chronicle and enjoys both reading and writing. He spends most of his free time writing, and coming up with weird characters for the novel he is working on. You can follow him on Instagram at @booklover41899.



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About The Author

Elisa Zied is a nationally recognized and award-winning health and nutrition expert, author, speaker, and spokesperson. A trusted source of food, nutrition, and health information, Elisa has garnered millions of media impressions, lending her expertise and real-world perspective to dozens of TV shows, web sites, news organizations and magazines. She’s the author of four nutrition books. An avid walker, she loves motivating others to #moveitorloseit. A book lover, she recently earned a certificate in children’s literature from Stony Brook Southampton and is currently working on several young adult novels. You can find her previous Food, Fitness & Fiction posts here and connect with her on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

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