By: Ray Melnik
Publication Date: March 21, 2009
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: May 2009
Kaela Ladd is a very bright young woman, with a promising future in the field of physics. At just 23, she is committed to science and is eager to complete her studies. Kaela has little time for life outside of the lab. When she is offered a position at SciLab, a renowned research facility, Kaela decides she can complete her doctorate by taking night classes and accepts the job offer.
Kaela is a bit of a loner, with few relationships outside the office. There are no boyfriends knocking at her door and the only person she spends any time with is her sister Lainey. Unfortunately, Lainey is not a scientist and so their relationship has its limitations. Kaela has been taught to question everything, while Lainey has come to accept the world as it appears.
The person who encouraged Kaela to question everything, to think with reason and not emotion, was her father Harry. Through the years they grew very close, with Harry sharing the joy and beauty of physics with his daughter. Then, one day, Kaela’s father shares a secret, something he’s never told anybody, that explains his voracious love of physics. He had been visiting his dying grandmother and upon entering her room, felt a strange vibration run through him. Strange things started to happen, and when he looked in the mirror, Harry saw a twelve year old version of himself. The past and present merged and Harry was changed forever. When her father was later killed in a car accident, Kaela assumed she would never get an explanation for the strange events her father had experienced.
Next we meet up with Kaela at SciLab. She has been given a prototype UPA (Universal Personal Assistant) that she’s named Adam. Kaela is asked to test the unit through daily household tasks and conversation. Meanwhile, she has also been assigned a project at SciLab, working with Dr. Kyle Trace to research a promising renewable energy source. When Kaela is asked to go before the company’s board to get funding, she is at first reluctant, but agrees and impresses the members enough that they grant additional support for SciLab’s research.
Kaela soon meets a scientist named Rael whom she takes an immediate liking to. With the project’s funding secured, and a new friend, all is well in Kaela’s world. The story then takes an unexpected turn when Dr. Trace shares a past experience with Kaela that could change her life forever, and bring her closer to her father.
If you’re looking for a light, quick beach reach, To Your Own Self Be True is not the book you want. This novel offers much to ponder – about life, the paths we’ve chosen for ourselves, how the decisions we made years earlier can change the future, and why we should be open to change. Kaela explained it well when she told Rael, “Many times, though, changing oneself is the most difficult thing to accomplish. It’s been far easier for me to see the right path for others than for myself.”
Some of the highlights of To Your Own Self Be True come from the conversations Kaela has with Adam, her UPA. Discussions range from marriage to death, and thoughts about what makes people happy. These deliberations will keep the reader thinking about his/her own life. Adam’s sophistication develops with each new conversation as the talks become more in depth and interesting. Will Kaela ever find her “it” that makes her truly happy?
Because the main characters are entrenched in the world of physics, To Your Own Self Be True focuses much of its energy on science. Although there are no equations mixed in with the text, there is a fair amount of technical jargon, with explanations of string theory and M-theory bantered about. The author does tone down the scientific talk a bit so the non-scientist can understand what is happening, although it may require a slower review of the text surrounding these discussions.
Quill says: A challenging but rewarding book about finding your own personal “it.”
For more information on To Your Own Self Be True, please visit the author's website at: Emergent Novels.