by Erica O'Rourke


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In this inventive romantic thriller, Del has the power to navigate between alternate realities—and the power to save multiple worlds.

Every time someone makes a choice, a new, parallel world is spun off the existing one. Eating breakfast or skipping it, turning left instead of right, sneaking out instead of staying in bed—all of these choices create alternate universes in which echo selves take the roads not traveled. Del knows this because she’s a Walker, someone who can navigate between the worlds, and whose job is to keep the dimensions in harmony.

But Del’s decisions have consequences too. Even though she’s forbidden from Walking after a training session goes horribly wrong, she secretly starts to investigate other dissonant worlds. She’s particularly intrigued by the echo versions of Simon Lane, a guy who won’t give her the time of day in the main world, but whose alternate selves are uniquely interested. But falling for Simon draws Del closer to a truth that the Council of Walkers is trying to hide—a secret that threatens the fate of the entire multiverse.

“O’Rourke brilliantly builds an intricate and complex alternate science-fiction universe that contains beautiful imagery and visualization. A definite page-turner.” —School Library Journal

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781442460249
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
Publication date: 07/22/2014
Series: Dissonance Series
Pages: 496
Product dimensions: 5.70(w) x 8.60(h) x 1.60(d)
Lexile: HL620L (what's this?)
Age Range: 12 - 18 Years

About the Author

Erica O’Rourke is the author of Dissonance, Resonance, and the Torn trilogy, which includes Torn, Tangled, and Bound. She lives near Chicago with her family. Visit her at EricaORourke.com and on Twitter: @Erica_ORourke.

Read an Excerpt


  • IT SEEMED LIKE a lousy way to remember someone: two aging strips of wood nailed together in the shape of a cross, stuck into a weed-choked ditch on the side of the road. A name, careful cursive in fading black marker, looped across the middle, and a tattered supermarket bouquet—carnations, daisies, baby’s breath—slumped against the base.

    It wasn’t much, but it would be enough.

    More than enough, if you asked me. Which no one did.

    The two-lane road on the edge of town wasn’t busy, but the curve was surprisingly sharp if you didn’t know to look for it, or didn’t care because you were young and thought you’d live forever. Backpack over my shoulder, I started into the ditch, tromping over prickler weeds and knee-high grasses. The ground squelched under my feet, but I ignored it, listening for the hum that meant I was close.

    My phone rang, and I shoved it deeper in my pocket. I’d gotten the most important message just after lunch.

    “Del, it’s Dad. I’m sorry to cancel our Walk again, but I’ve got an emergency meeting with the Consort this afternoon. Your mother says your assignment’s due tomorrow, so why don’t you . . .”

    I hadn’t bothered listening to the rest. I’d heard it—or a variation of it—enough times. Emergencies were the status quo at my house. There was always a problem my parents needed to fix, a fresh crisis demanding their attention. A situation so important everything else was pushed to the side.

    More often than not, I was the “everything else.” But the upside of being ignored is that people forget to tell you no.

    Burrs clung to my sweater as I picked my way across the muddy terrain. Clouds blanketed the sky, and the air carried a heavy, earthy scent that signaled more rain to come. With any luck I’d be back before the storm hit.

    My assignment was easy enough: Walk to a nearby Echo, locate the trouble spots, Walk home. I’d done it countless times, knew the steps well enough that I didn’t need a chaperone. My parents might disagree, but if they were really worried, they would have made the time to come with, like they were supposed to.

    I could handle this on my own.

    The problem was, the only person who believed me was my grandfather. When other kids were playing park district soccer or climbing trees, Monty had taken me wandering among a different set of branches—the multiverse, the infinity of worlds spreading out from ours like the limbs of a tree. It was Monty who’d first shown me how a single choice could create two distinct realities—the world we lived in and the road not traveled. He’d shown me how to move between those realities, listening for the unique frequency each was set to, using the sound as a pathway across. I’d grown up with his voice in my ear, whispering the secrets of the multiverse, while the sounds of the Echo worlds rang through me like a bell. He’d taught me more about Walking than I’d ever learned from my parents, my older sister, Addison, or Shaw, my teacher at the Consort.

    As far as they were concerned, I needed training. Someone to hold my hand while I took baby steps, when all I wanted was to run.

    Today I was free to go as fast and as far as I liked.

    I held my hand out, palm down, next to the wooden cross. Instantly I felt a thrumming over my skin, like a harp string roughly plucked. It was the pivot, a gate between realities, a sound so faint only one in a hundred thousand people—literally—could hear it.

    There are more than six billion people in the world, but only sixty thousand licensed Walkers. Nine hundred in the greater Chicagoland area. Four of them were in my family, and by summer, I’d be the fifth.

    Usually pivots are easier to hear than see, but the air around the memorial trembled like leaves in a high wind. It made sense; the strongest pivots form at places where a choice causes a sudden, significant change, and nothing’s more sudden or significant than an unexpected death.

    I eased inside the vibrating pocket of air, the rift expanding around me. The dissonance slid over my skin like a dusting of snow. With each step the noise in my head increased, countless frequencies competing for my attention. A pivot directly connects two worlds, but once you’re inside, you can use it to travel to any other Echo in the multiverse. The trick is knowing what to listen for.

    Over breakfast, my mom had played a sample of my target frequency, the one I’d need for today’s Walk. But my assignment could wait for a while.

    One foot in the Key World, one inside the pivot, I reached into the fabric of the multiverse, choosing a random thread from the dense, rippling weave. The vibration turned my limbs effervescent, while the air grew heavy as water. I hummed, matching the pitch of the string in my hands. The path cleared, resistance fading along with my vision. Another step, and the pivot went wispy and gray.

    Another, and I left behind the rules and disappointments and weight of the old world . . .

    . . . and walked directly into oncoming traffic.

  • Customer Reviews

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    Dissonance 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
    MadSeasonGirl More than 1 year ago
    Original and entertaining. I didn't understand some of the concepts (maybe I have to be musically inclined?), but I enjoyed it nonetheless.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Very intriguing world -- not your usual run-of-the-mill paranormal romance. Eagerly looking forward to next in series.
    WulfLuva More than 1 year ago
    I’m going to start off by saying that I’m not really sure about this book… like at all. It was kind of strange. Maybe I just wasn’t in the mood for it or something. I honestly have no idea. The story started out waaaaaay too fast. I was thrown into a world of pivots and other jargon that I had no idea what to do with. This continued throughout the entire book. There were even little paragraphs of info on the words, but I still couldn’t picture what was happening in the alternate-reality verse. It felt like there needed to be another book before this one. And although those parts were too fast, the entire book went by really slow. It’s almost 500 pages, and it seriously didn’t need to be. There wasn’t a lot happening plot-wise. This also fed into the characters’ relationships. The love relationship didn’t make any sense to me. It popped into being. I also somehow managed to not care at all about the main character. Del wasn’t relatable. She was supposed to be some sort of rebel, but really she just came across as whiny. And her sister seemed a little too mean, for no reason. All in all, this book just wasn’t for me. There was an interesting plot, and a promising story arc, it just failed to deliver. 2/5 stars *Note: I received a copy of this book to review from the publisher. This in no way altered my opinion/review.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    This book is one of the best books I have read in a long time. It was a little confusing at first but once I kept on reading everything fell into place. Read this book and you will not regret it.
    Berls More than 1 year ago
    Fantastic World Building I received this book for free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. My Initial Reaction...  Well I just got stranded on a major cliff :( But it was worth it! I loved the characters in Dissonance, the world building was great and I didn't see most the twists coming - but looking back I really should have, which makes Dissonance even more excellent!  The Characters...  I really loved the characters in Dissonance and got to know quite a few of them really well. Del - the main character from whose point of view Dissonance is told - is a Walker, like everyone in her family. But she's a natural and having that natural ability has made her a reckless rule breaker. But she always has good intentions and, what I loved most about her, she has a deep respect for life (even the echoes, which I'll explain later). She's one of those beautifully flawed characters that's has the best intentions and you like, but makes loads of mistakes that makes you cringe for them. Or want to slap them.  Her sister, Addie, is a character I'm really on the fence about. She's the polar opposite of Del. She doesn't break the rules at all, and while she doesn't have Del's natural ability, she has skill from dedication and hard work. She can be incredibly annoying, but I loved the sisterly interactions and the feeling that she's wrestling with a lot of big decisions deep down that Del just can't fully see or understand.  Then there's Elliot - Del's walker best friend, who totally saves her butt over and over. He's a bit of a technological genius it seems and definitely a nice guy - but I really wish we got to know him a little bit better. I think we would, except that Del doesn't fully appreciate him, so we don't get to either. Her loss is our loss.  The love interest - Simon - is particularly hard to describe because we see him in so many different echoes. But I think it says something that no matter where we see him he's incredibly devoted to his mom and has a dog he loves. And the real Simon shows himself to be a lot more complex than the jock he appears to be on the surface, which was a nice surprise.  The final character I got to know and love was Del & Addie's grandfather Monty. He lost their grandmother Rose years ago and has never fully recovered. You spend a good portion of Dissonance fluctuating between loving his crazy, senile behavior and wondering how much he's there. He has a great relationship with Del and I don't think you can help but love him throughout most of Dissonance.  The Story...  There's two things I loved about Dissonance and one thing that kind of bothered me.  I loved the world building in Dissonance. It was unique, creative and fresh - not to mention speaking to a question I think we've all asked many times. "What if?" What if I had made a different decision - where would I be now? In this world, Walkers (like Del) know the answer because every time an Original (a person in the main world) makes a decision, another version of the world splits off into an Echo, where they made the other decision. It's complex, but really well explained and you easily pick up the terms and details.  What bothered me was that Del starts traveling through the different Echoes and hooking up with (on a PG-13 level) Simon's Echoes (so the versions of him that made other choices). On some level this just didn't work for me - either they're real and she's cheating on so many Simons or they aren't real and then, well, EWWW.  But in the end, that was really a small piece of the puzzle for me. The plot was twisted enough that I always had multiple guesses for what was going to happen and there were plenty of questions floating around - but I didn't call a single one. Looking back I realize I should have. To me, that's a great plot. Concluding Sentiments...  Just when I felt like Dissonance was starting to wrap up, bam! I got hit with another twist and then there was no more book. I felt satisfied with the main story arcs resolution, but I promise you, I will be stalking Erica O'Rourke to see what comes next!
    WorldsCollide More than 1 year ago
    A thrilling, unpredictable, absolutely brilliant YA sci-fi romance. Dissonance was a fantastic read. I totally loved this book! From the impeccably explained science of parallel universes, to the endless supply of unpredictable twists, and to the super sweet romance, this book was amazing. The world building in this book was perfect. With a concept as complex as parallel worlds, it would be very easy to get lost in the middle of all the science and still not be able to understand what's going on. But the author did a great job in describing the science behind the worlds and in a way that didn't feel like info dumping. It was slowly revealed and explained in a way that made sense, without leaving any holes. From the actual parallel worlds, to the Echoes of the real people in the Key World, to the Walkers who have the ability to travel between worlds, everything was well described. I really have to commend the author for that because she did a brilliant job. Del was a lovely heroine. She wasn't perfect. She made mistakes and acted recklessly more than once. She got herself and her friends and family into a ton of trouble. But, she was also very strong, determined, and not afraid to jump into any situation if she thought she would be doing good. She was cleverer than most people ever gave her credit for and she was basically a badass. I really liked her character. Simon was an interesting character. At first, it was difficult to get to know him, since we would see other versions of him and not as much of the real him. But the other versions (his Echoes) were parts of him, so they were all still confident, clever, and very sweet. And, all that applied to the Original. Like Del, he made mistakes, but he was strong and definitely brave enough to do whatever was necessary to keep his loved ones safe. I absolutely adored him. The romance was very sweet. I liked how it unfolded slowly and gave it time for their feelings to really deepen. Del and Simon were so sweet together and a perfect match. I thought they were a lovely couple. I really liked the secondary characters in this book and how they were treated. Eliot, Del's friend, was such a sweet guy who was always their for his best friend. Abbie, Del's sister, came across as a perfectionist type snob at first, but we see deeper into her character as the book went on and she proved to be a clever Walker who would do anything to ensure the safety of the Key World. Monty, Del's grandfather, was interesting on his own right and came with more than one surprise. I thought all three of them were great. The plot was steadily paced. It didn't move quickly, more like deliberately. It allowed the story to unfold on its own time and the whole parallel universe thing to be explained fully. I was hooked the entire way through. There were tons of twists that kept me on the edge of my seat and more than one surprise that I never saw coming. I really enjoyed the story and the ending has me excited for book 2. Can't wait to read it! Dissonance was a brilliant YA sci-fi romance. I absolutely loved this book. It had romance, twists, thrills, and several surprises in store. And all of it was amazing. YA lovers, this book is a must read. *I received a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review
    Alyssa75 More than 1 year ago
    ***Review posted on The Eater of Books! blog*** Dissonance by Erica O'Rourke Book One of the Dissonance series Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers Publication Date: July 22, 2014 Rating: 4 stars Source: eARC from Edelweiss Summary (from Goodreads): Delancy Sullivan has always known there’s more to reality than what people see. Every time someone makes a choice, a new, parallel world branches off from the existing one. Eating breakfast or skipping it, turning left instead of right, sneaking out instead of staying in bed ~ all of these choices create an alternate universe in which an echo self takes the road not travelled and makes the opposite decision. As a Walker, someone who can navigate between these worlds, Del’s job is to keep all of the dimensions in harmony. Normally, Del can hear the dissonant frequency that each world emits as clear as a bell. But when a training session in an off-key world goes horribly wrong, she is forbidden from Walking by the Council. But Del’s not big on following the rules and she secretly starts to investigate these other worlds. Something strange is connecting them and it’s not just her random encounters with echo versions of the guy she likes, Simon Lane. But Del’s decisions have unimaginable consequences and, as she begins to fall for the Echo Simons in each world, she draws closer to a truth that the Council of Walkers is trying to hide ~ a secret that threatens the fate of the entire multiverse. What I Liked: Ooo, I liked this book a lot! I'm not sure if I was expecting to like it, before reading it, but I can say that I've been waiting to read this book for over a year, and not just because S&S released the gorgeous cover early. I'm really fascinated with the concept of parallel worlds. O'Rourke approaches the concept in an interesting (and slightly confusing) way. I'm hooked! Del is a Walker, one who can enter and leave Echo worlds, which are like parallel worlds, but they aren't real. They're worlds that exist because of choices - they are Echo worlds, the worlds that don't technically exist, because a different choice was made. Del makes a mistake and cleaves a world (meaning, she unraveled it, made it not exist anymore), and suddenly, it seems like her actions have serious consequences. Something is very wrong with the other Echo worlds, and Del, being Del, is determined to figure it out, despite the fact that she is all but banned from Walking.  I LOVE the awesome world (worlds?) that O'Rourke has created! I can't imagine the amount of research and imagination and creativity that must have went into perfecting the world/worlds of this book! Everything is very complex, tangled, intertwined. Keep in mind, this book is NOT a time-travel novel. Nothing Del does in the Echo worlds affects what goes in the Key world. Except for making that Echo world disappear. But that turns out not to be her fault, as readers should expect. There is something greater afoot, something bigger than just one world being cleaved by a slightly unskilled girl. I loved all of the complications of the alternate worlds, all of the quirks and risks, the simple things (like the frequencies), and the big ones (like the inversions). Del is reckless and fearless - it's very clear in this book. In so many YA books, we see "strong" heroines who are actually girls who are terrified of making decisions. In this book, Del doesn't even think about her decisions - it seems to be intrinsic to her, to break the rules, to keep Walking, to keep seeking out Echo Simon (and real Simon). I love this fearlessness in her. It's very reckless, and sometimes foolish, but it's a wonderful quality to have, in my opinion.  I love Simon, the male protagonist. This book is super long, and a good portion of this book is about him specifically. Del keeps seeing him everywhere in Echo worlds - and the thing is, none of the Echo should even SEE her, let alone recognize her. In real life, Simon thinks he's day-dreaming, so he doesn't think what he sees in the Echo worlds are real. But Simon is a huge part of Del's focus. Why can he see her? Why does his Echoes remember in each Echo world? And why does she care about him so much, both the Echoes and the real him (which are technically the same person)? Simon is a cocky guy, but he is also persistent and sweet. I do love that combination, especially in a guy. We get to know more about Echo Simon (all the variations), and we get to know more about real Simon, and while I really like Doughnut Echo Simon, real Simon is my favorite. Obviously, not only is he a plot point and pivotal character in this novel, but he is also a love interest. Him and Del don't have the easiest relationship (thanks to all the Walker secrecy), but I do like them together. Speaking of the romance... I liked the romance. I liked the chemistry between Del and Simon. I liked the on-and-off tension, the flirting, the hot-and-cold act. Usually I'd get sick of it quickly, but I loved the back-and-forth between Del and Simon. I thought there would be a love triangle, but thank goodness that "leg" of the love triangle is one-sided. Never mind that I mentioned anything about a love triangle. Think DEL AND SIMON. Because that's that. I liked that this book focused a bit on relationships (other than romance). Del spends the book furious at her sister, who basically turned her in when she made the mistake of cleaving the Echo world (despite the fact that Del saved Addie's life, when Addie the Perfect Walker froze up). I didn't like Addie at all, but she had her merits and uses. I didn't really like Eliot, Del's best friend, though he definitely had his uses. He's a genius, but he seriously needs to get laid. There is also Del's relationship with her parents - for the duration of this book, it seems like Del is pissed at her parents for going with her punishment for cleaving the world, and pissed at them for never being there. Totally understandable. And finally, there is Del's relationship with her grandfather, Monty. I liked Monty, even until the end. Basically, I really enjoyed this book! I don't think I need to say anymore. I'll definitely be catching the second book (thank goodness there will be a second book)! What I Did Not Like: I think one of the only things that I didn't really like was the amount of terms that I really didn't understand too well. Like, the Baroque world, and inversions. I can kind of figure out that inversions are sort of like ripples in the world, or wrinkles? Maybe? I'm not even sure. Because that sounds too much like a Break. And Baroque worlds? I've got nothing. There is a lot going in this book, both directly relating to the alternate worlds and indirectly relating to the alternate worlds, so there is plenty of room for confusion in this book in general. I had a bit of trouble with the alternate words and the terms (as I mentioned), as well as some of the limitations and rules of the Echo worlds, but I think a re-read as well as the sequel might solidify my understanding of the parts of the alternate worlds that I don't currently understand. Would I Recommend It: If you're a science fiction person, then DEFINITELY! I'm going to give a solid maybe, if you're not a science fiction person. This book is long and very heavily involved in the alternate worlds and the science of everything. The romance definitely fills in the book though. So. There's that. Rating: 4.5 stars -> rounded down to 4 stars because of the slightly confusing elements, and the slightly cliff-hanger-like ending. I'm not saying anything else about the ending though. Read the book for yourself, you'll see what I mean!