IN ONE LIFE AND OUT ANOTHER, a standalone young adult contemporary, by J. Mercer


5 out of 5 stars

This is the story of how my parents split me in two, and how I ultimately put myself back together…

On the eve of Marin’s birthday, her parents tell her they’re getting divorced—or, in a parallel universe, they don’t tell her anything at all. This defining moment, along with Marin’s subsequent choices, turn her into polar ends of herself and drastically affect the relationships she has with her two best friends, her mom, and soccer player Sam Hanson. The possibilities of ‘what could have been’ play out in alternating scenarios throughout the book.

If Marin can’t make it into Wash U and get away from her suffocating mother, she just might self-implode. She’s determined that nothing will stop her, but then she can’t seem to say no to what everyone else wants—or yes to Sam, seeing as her best friend Hannah wants him too.

Things that this Marin puts up with—a narcissistic mother and a buoyant yet selfish best friend—the other never would. But then, the other can’t stop fighting long enough to get who or what she wants. Instead, she marks a path through life that nearly alienates her best friend Whitney and the boy from work she won’t let herself be distracted by, because distractions like Sam Hanson won’t get her into dance school and away from her mom.

One moment may have changed the trajectory of her future, but if Marin can’t find her way back to herself, she’ll not only lose the boy and her best friends, but also the future she’s worked so hard for.

IN ONE LIFE AND OUT ANOTHER will appeal to fans of E.Lockhart, Brenna Yovanoff, and Kristin Dwyer, as well as readers who enjoyed the SLIDING DOOR premise of MAYBE IN ANOTHER LIFE by Taylor Jenkins Reid or THE MIDNIGHT LIBRARY by Matt Haig.

Told in alternating chapters, this story asks if the person changes the life, or if the life changes the person.



My Review
This concept reminds me of the movie, Sliding Doors, with Gwyneth Paltrow. Her life is vastly different depending on whether or not she catches her train. ONE LIFE AND OUT ANOTHER explores how Marin’s life plays out based on her parents’ decision to divorce or stay together. In one life, her parents are still together, though unhappy as ever, but her friendships with her two BFFs, Whitney and  Hannah, are fractured. In one life, she’s still friends with Whit and in another Hannah. In both lives, she’s hopelessly in love with Sam Hanson but can’t have him, though for different reasons.

What the author does really well is show how the choices parents make have very significant impacts on their children, impacts that can alter the course of their lives. And that staying together “for the sake of the children” might not always be the best choice, though divorce is no picnic either. The story is raw, the characters fully developed, and the choices that Marin needs to make, both due to and in spite of her parents, alter everyone’s lives, not just hers. The story is emotionally charged without being over done. Marin’s angst is palpable without being annoying as she navigates her journey into young adulthood with or without the support of her parents and friends.

There are three main plots running through the story as well as some subplots. I can’t really pick a main plot because all three are given similar weight and are equally important to Marin’s life. The first is getting into her dream school, the second is her relationship with Sam, and the third is her friendships with Whit and Hannah. There are also good subplots around her dancing as well as her relationships with both of her parents that are intertwined so thickly in the main plots that they can’t really be extracted without derailing the entire story. The author weaves them all together seamlessly, making us care about all of the characters, but especially Marin.

The characters are all fully fleshed out! No one is a cardboard cutout, not even Ernie, owner of the ice cream parlor! Marin, Whit, Sam, Hannah, and Marin’s mom are deep characters, with rich backstories and understandable motivations that drive their actions. Marin’s dad spends a lot less time on the page, so I didn’t get as much of a feel for him, but he’s not a stereotype either. The growth that all the characters experience is believable and necessary to the characters that J. Mercer has crafted for them.

1. The Concept.
I love a good “what if” premise. It’s one of my favorites, especially when taken to extremes. The author does a masterful job of executing on this premise.

2. Sam. Sam is the dream guy. He’s patient, funny, understanding, but still vulnerable without being a pushover.

3. Marin. Her home life is a wreck, but she doesn’t let it destroy her, too. She has plans for her future and won’t let anyone or anything get in her way.

4. Family Drama. I don’t actually love family drama, but it’s a reality for so many families and seeing it portrayed so honestly with being overly done made the story that much richer.

5. Dance. As the mother of a dancer, I really enjoyed these aspects of the story.

Bottom Line
A wonderfully executed alternate choices tale with fully-developed characters.


About the Book – Read for Free with Kindle Unlimited
Author: J. Mercer
Publisher: Bare Ink
Release Date: May 16, 2023
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance / Family Issues
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Amazon IT | Amazon FR | Amazon DE 


Author J. Mercer

Author J. Mercer

About The Author
J Mercer grew up in Wisconsin where she walked home from school with her head in a book, filled notebooks with stories in junior high, then went to UW Madison for accounting and psychology only to open a dog daycare. She wishes she were an expert linguist, is pretty much a professional with regards to competitive dance hair (bunhawk, anyone?), and enjoys exploring with her husband—though as much as she loves to travel, she’s also an accomplished hermit. Perfect days include cancelled plans, rain, and endless hours to do with what she pleases.

For updates and news, you can find her on Facebook, but she’s more often on Instagram, talking about what she’s reading and other bookish things. Go there for book recommendations, reading-inspired writing tips, or even to read along. If you prefer everything delivered directly to your inbox, click here to get on the email list.


Where to Find J. Mercer
Goodreads | Website | NewsletterFacebook | Instagram

Privacy Preference Center