Although Benjamin keeps having mild deja vu, it's not until he meets Steve, and then Maggie, that he learns he's stuck in a loop.
Time usually moves linearly, but sometimes, for unknown reasons, it starts to loop for certain people. Benjamin's lasts for a few days, during which he meets Maggie, Maggie shoots Roy, he and Maggie run from Roy and the cops until they can convince an adult to bet on some horses for them and win them a lot of money (Maggie knows which horses will win), and the two of them are killed by Roy in Shreveport. After that, everything starts over again.
Benjamin's memory of previous repetitions of their loop isn't very good. Even so, he recognizes Maggie and knows, the instant he meets her, that he cares about her. He's not sure how she feels about him, but he knows that he wants her to survive. Together, they try to find a way to break out of their loop, but will they be able to do it when everything around them seems to be forcing them to Shreveport, where Roy has killed them every single time?
I had problems with this book's premise right from the start. I tried to ignore them and just enjoy the ride, but it was hard – my brain kept interrupting with questions that the book never satisfactorily answered. For example, since Steve's loop lasts less than a month, what happens to him after that time is up? Does he die at the end of his loop, the way Maggie and Benjamin did? If not, then how could he continue to exist past the end of his loop? If he did die at the end of his loop, how could he ever manage to break it? Unless every single individual who has ever gotten stuck in a loop has created multiple parallel timelines or something? Just trying to figure out the logic of the loops makes my brain hurt.
There were other problems with the whole “loop” concept. Supposedly, Maggie had previously gone through four other loops. When she first brought it up, I assumed she meant that she had gone through her and Benjamin's loop four times, but her statement was later clarified to mean that she had actually gone through four other separate loops. Had I been Benjamin, my first question would have been “How did you get out of them?” but he never even tried asking that. Both he and Maggie just assumed that they'd break out of their loop if they managed not to be killed by Roy. I thought that was a pretty big assumption.
Most everything they knew about loops they learned from Steve. I couldn't fathom why they'd trust a thing he said about “bending Fate” and breaking out of their loop when he had never been able to break out of his own loop. That's like asking a guy who'd gotten into a bunch of accidents and earned lots of traffic tickets to teach you how to drive. Maggie should have been a better source of information, but, like I said, Benjamin never even bothered to ask her how she got out of her four other loops, and she never volunteered any information.
This was very much a plot-driven book. Readers were given bare-bones information about Benjamin and Maggie, and that was pretty much it - most of the book was about Maggie and Benjamin trying to keep away from Shreveport while "Fate" kept throwing a bunch of things in their way (every road away from Shreveport is blocked by accidents or knocked down trees! money for bus fare just happens to be right where they can find it!) to get them back on track for their fatal meeting with Roy. There was no explanation for Benjamin's love for Maggie, and her love for him, beyond “they knew each other really well after all those repetitions together.” Most of the book was written in the first person, from Benjamin's POV. In chapter 30, it switched to first person from Maggie's POV and, sadly, it was hard to tell the difference between her “voice” and Benjamin's.
All in all, The Loop's fairly fast pace and short length made it a quick read, but I was left feeling unsatisfied and frustrated. The characters weren't interesting enough to make up for the flaws in the premise and the story, and the ending seemed way too easy.
My read-alikes/watch-alikes list is...not very good. I rarely read YA books with male protagonists and I usually avoid time travel-y stuff like the plague.
Read-alikes and Watch-alikes:
- Day Break (live action TV series) - As I was reading The Loop, I kept thinking of this TV series, which also stars a character working against the clock, trying to figure out how to break out of his own time loop and make everything right again. I've written about this show.
- Unremembered (book) by Jessica Brody - Another fast-paced YA thriller with a main character who doesn't quite know what's going on, plus a bit of romance. The main character in this one is a girl, though.
- The Future of Us (book) by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler - I went hunting for YA books with time travel/time travel-ish aspects and came up with this. I haven't read it, but here's what I got out of reading descriptions: The story takes place in 1996. After installing AOL using one of the free AOL CDs, the main characters find themselves automatically logged on to Facebook, even though it hasn't been invented yet. This allows them to see their lives in the future. This isn't a thriller, though, and it sounds like there's more focus on relationship aspects.
- Soulmate (book) by L.J. Smith - Another YA book (this time, paranormal romance) starring a character caught in a deadly pattern that always ends the same way, with her death. She later learns that she has been reincarnated several times, fallen in love with the same guy each time (turns out he's a vampire!), and been killed each time...possibly by the very guy she keeps falling in love with. I've written about this book. It's be good for those who'd like more action and romance.