Lauren James on Soul Mates: Guest Post + The Next Together

The Next Together by Lauren James
Young adult: contemporary/historical romance
August 2014; thank you to Walker Books Australia
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How many times can you lose the person you love? 

Katherine and Matthew are destined to be born again and again, century after century. Each time, their presence changes history for the better, and each time, they fall hopelessly in love, only to be tragically separated. 

Spanning the Crimean War, the Siege of Carlisle and the near-future of 2019 and 2039 they find themselves sacrificing their lives to save the world. But why do they keep coming back? What else must they achieve before they can be left to live and love in peace? 

Maybe the next together will be different...

A powerful and epic debut novel for teenagers about time-travel, fate and the timelessness of first love. The Next Together is told through a mixture of regular prose, diary entries, letters, "original" historical documents, news reports and internet articles.

Lively and well-plotted, The Next Together is an ambitious and imaginative fusion of historical and science fiction, romance and thriller. The concept is stellar. The scrapbook format evokes a fun sense of uncovering a mystery, with Matthew and Katherine's romance reenacted over centuries through 'primary documents' and prose narration from the heroine reincarnate, interspersed with ominous updates from a mysterious outside entity, chronicling Matthew and Katherine's multiple lives together.

The reincarnated soulmate premise has the potential to fall into irreparable clich̩, but The Next Together avoids becoming trite because the complications in the lovers' multiple lives aren't anchored in their relationship. Rather, throughout history, Matthew and Katherine find themselves poised to change the world for the better. Lauren James' pacing is superb: an impressive feat with four sets of Katherines and Matthews, with each with their own distinct contexts and storylines. I consider it the mark of a successful dual Рor, in this case, quadruple Рnarrative when I am equally invested in each time period featured: this Lauren James achieves. The voice of 2039 Kate is immediately endearing, as are the flirty interactions between Katherine and Matthew of 2019; and I was fascinated by both the featured historical periods.

Ultimately, the exposition of the time travel mythology wasn’t comprehensive – who are the faceless higher-ups intervening to manipulate Katherine and Matthew’s shared history? How, as readers, are we viewing this dossier of documents piecing together Matthew and Katherine’s contact through their ‘time-landscapes’? I want to know everything! I first read The Next Together in ignorance of its upcoming sequel, and found the ending open-ended nature a bit frustrating. But Lauren James has allowed herself room to solidify the time travel mythology in The Last Goodbye, due next year, for which I have endless anticipation.

The Next Together is an energetic, compelling concept well executed. Its clever and original and quite unlike anything I’ve picked up in a long while.

My favourite soulmate tropes

I don’t believe in soulmates in reality, but as a literary device they are one of my favourite tropes. The idea that your favourite character is only a moment away from bumping into their perfect partner is such an exciting incentive to keep reading. It adds an air of anticipatory delight through the whole book – especially when the going gets tough. The character might be going through terrible things, but just wait until they meet their soulmate! Then everything will change – and they have no idea what’s coming! It’s so gleefully delicious to read.

I’m a sucker for those kind of stories. So here are some of my favourite soulmate tropes. 

This is the idea that you’re born with a mark which matches one on your soulmate’s skin – or even their name, like a tattoo. Every person you meet might be your soulmate, and the only way to find out is to check their soulmark and see if it matches your own. So fun! What are the social conventions of asking about other people’s soulmarks? What happens if you fall in love with someone, and then realise your marks don’t match? What if your soulmate is already married? What if your parents knew you were gay from the moment you were born, before you did, because the name on your arm was of someone of the same gender? What would that change about society’s acceptance of homosexuality throughout history? The politics of this are just so fascinating.

Obviously this is one of my favourites – I wrote a book about it! The idea that souls find each other in every life, and that they can’t keep themselves away from each other despite the fact that they literally died and came back to life . . . it’s irresistible!

Dream sharing 
This is one of my favourite tropes. What if your soulmate has been in your dreams since you were a child? What if the first time you met a stranger, you suddenly recognised them from your oldest dreams? What if you shared the same dreamspace, so you’d spent hours and hours together in dreams before you ever even met?

What if the moment you saw someone, even if you were just passing them in the street, you knew they were your soulmate? It would be so convenient (and save a LOT of small talk) but what if you were driving past them, and never found them again? What if you spent years after that, knowing your soulmate was out there and what they looked like, but never being able to find them? What if you saw a famous actor in a film and realised they were your soulmate? What would dating sites look like – a series of endless photos that you stared at until one clicked? I NEED TO KNOW EVERYTHING.

Sharing emotions 
In this soulmate concept, even before you meet each other you can feel your soulmate’s emotions. You’d feel happy when your soulmate is happy, and pain when they are hurt. How would you track them down? How would it feel to finally meet someone whose emotions you knew just as well as your own? Imagine the sheer happiness you would feel from them when you finally met!

Lauren James is 23, and graduated in 2014 from the University of Nottingham, UK, where she studied Chemistry and Physics. Her first novel The Next Together, a YA reincarnation romance, is out now with Walker Books in the UK and Australia, and will also be published in the USA, Germany, Turkey and Brazil. The Last Beginning will be published in Autumn 2016. Lauren is an Arts Council grant recipient. 

You can find her on Twitter at @Lauren_E_James or Tumblr at

Monday, November 9, Genie in a Book
Tuesday, November 10, Dymocks Bookmarked
Wednesday, November 11, Nicole Has Read
Thursday, November 12, Cassie the Weird
Friday, November 13, Imaginary Misadventure
Saturday, November 14, The Book Addict

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  1. I ADORED this book!! So many of my favourite things mushed together into a book of awesomeness!

    Great post from Lauren James as well.

    1. Thanks darl! :) It was so lovely wasn't it?

  2. So glad you liked this one Sophie! I have a soft spot for recairnation/soulmate type books and this one hit the spot perfectly!