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Nolan is sure he’s hit rock bottom after his mother dies and he must move in with his estranged uncle on the swanky side of Morley, Maine. But when Nolan meets kindred spirit Harlow, things definitely start to look up. Soon, the two new friends cross paths with Topher, a photographer who tells of a pond in the woods that leads to his real home, another Morley—a city-state plagued by fear and the iron grip of an evil Governor. Nolan and Harlow don’t believe in magic portals until one day, Nolan wades into the pond and bursts out the other side in the parallel Morley. Seized by the Governor’s guards, Nolan soon pieces together that he’s traded places with his “double”—someone almost identical to him. While Harlow helps Nolan’s double fly under the radar in her Morley, on the other side of the portal, Nolan must summon all his courage to confront the malevolent Governor, save the doubles, and restore hope to a world on the brink of despair. With its blend of adventure and suspense, Ripples takes you on an unforgettable journey that explores the power of friendship and the spirit of resilience.
In this uplifting debut, O’Hea offers vividly realized teen characters who learn about identity and life choices after they encounter a menacing parallel world populated with doppelgangers. After the death of his mother from a drug overdose, 16-year-old Nolan goes to live with his wealthy uncle in the Maine town of Morley. He becomes enamored with Harlow, the teenage daughter of the mayor, Matt Stevenson. On a hike in the woods, Nolan discovers a disheveled man, Topher Collins, who tells an incredible story about being from an alternate Morley dominated with an iron fist by the ruthless dictator Governor Matthias Stevenson, a double of the amiable Matt. Sixteen years ago, Topher, a photographer, had taken a picture of Matthias beating his baby daughter, Lolo, and was immediately arrested. Chased by the governor’s guards, Topher fell through a portal in a pond into Nolan’s version of Morley, and has feared to return, as the governor likely executed his double.

O’Hea emphasizes the human in this heady story, taking time to develop the characters so that readers eventually can contrast them with their doubles, who appear after a hasty decision causes Nolan to fall through the portal and arrive in the Governor’s dystopian Morley. Nolan’s double, Nole, and Harlow’s double, Lolo, are swapped into Nolan’s world, and each learns about the freedoms that society and politicians can both give and easily take away. Nolan, meanwhile, faces the possibility that this is a one-way trip and that he could be trapped forever—but at least in this alternate world his mother is alive.

The chapters shift the first-person points of view of Harlow, Nolan, Topher, Nole, and Lolo, an approach that chops up the progression of the story, diminishing momentum, yet offering depth and insight as the teenagers critique the strange worlds they discover and learn that citizens have the power to create the government they want. Readers will root for the resilient characters who fight for freedom right up to a satisfying conclusion.

Takeaway: A resourceful teen fights for freedom in a parallel world of doppelgangers.

Comparable Titles: Lauren Oliver’s Before I Fall, Gwen Cole’s Cold Summer.

Production grades
Cover: A-
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A