Rebecca Serle's 'In Five Years' Is Not the Story You Think It Is

You'll devour it—just don't expect a lighthearted romance novel.

'in five years' by rebecca serle book reviews
(Image credit: Design By Morgan McMullen)

Rebecca Serle's In Five Years is not what #ReadWithMC readers expected. Sure, it was a quick read, but it's not the fun, lighthearted book it seems. At first, the book reads like a page right out of 13 Going on 30 or Freaky Friday, but the storyline is actually much more complex and introspective—making it a fascinating read that many readers finished within a day.

Dannie, a 28-year-old lawyer, has her life perfectly mapped out with her soon-to-be husband. That is, until she has a dream the night of her engagement that—five years in the future—she's living a different life with a completely different man. After she wakes up, she can't shake what she felt in the dream. And, four and-a-half years later, is completely shocked when she meets the man in her dream IRL. I won't give you too many you'll just have to keep reading.

Here, the #ReadWithMC community shares exactly why they loved Rebecca Serle's In Five Years so much. (P.S., New Yorkers, you'll enjoy all of the restaurant and city references throughout the book.)

"'If there's a clock ticking toward anything, it should be your happiness.'

Dannie is a lawyer. She's strait-laced, sees things in black and white, and is incredibly type A. She has a solid five-year plan, but really she's been mapping her life out since childhood. Everything is going accordingly. An interview at her dream job, a proposal from her perfect boyfriend. So why is she waking up five years in the future in an unknown apartment with a handsome stranger? Soon after, she's back in the present day, but was that a dream or a premonition? And will it all unravel when she meets that same stranger four-and-a-half years later?⁣

I was hesitant to read this book for two reasons. One: This book has been very hyped. Two: I am one of the few that didn't love The Dinner List. Thankfully I ignored my doubts and picked up this book anyway. And I LOVED it. Dannie is uptight and very particular, but this made her my ideal character for this book (plus she's Jewish, which is always a plus for me). Dannie is always in control of everything. Her job, her relationships, her future. I loved watching this analytical planner grapple with this premonition and the idea of fate. It's so foreign to her and that made it all the more exciting to watch unfold. She's this perfect combination of numbers and feelings.⁣

Although we watch Dannie try to understand which man is right for her—the "perfect on paper" man of her dreams or the one from her actual dream—this is not a romance novel. It is a love story, but not the one I expected. It's the story of an extraordinary friendship and the true love that comes with it.⁣ This book got me thinking so much about control and fate. How much control do you really have over your own life? Is it our choices that guide us or something else?⁣" —@bookmarkedbypage

"Another page turner right here. It was a fast read and really engaging. What happens when you get a glimpse of your life in five years, but then return to your current self? No context, just one hour in the future. How would that experience change you or would it at all? This intriguing idea is the premise for this book and it was handled really well. Made me wonder how much of your fate do you really have control over? This question also made me think of Oona Out of Order, which I just read too. Oona is a totally different premise, but still raises the question of how much of our lives are meant to play out, even if we try to alter it? I loved that there was an 'end point' to look forward to, but that the journey was the most important part. I read part of this on my kindle and listed to part of it on audio and the audio was narrated by @meganhilty and was amazing!" —@readtotheend

"Whew, okay. I just finished this audiobook, and first I want to say that the book didn’t turn out to be what I expected. I was rooting for this since last year when it came out on bookstagram, guns ablazing, being promoted by bloggers and bookstagrammers left and right. I was drawn to the blurb in a snap because it screamed 13 Going on 30 right at my face. (If you’re not familiar, it’s Jennifer Garner and Mark Ruffalo’s movie. Search it, it’s awesome! I fucking love that movie and have seen it too many times.)

So yeah, the blurb gives us one side of the story and it’s a biggie. You will get fixated on it way too much and expect the book to follow through. Don’t. Just read on with an open mind of what’s to come and you’ll be rewarded with a different kind of story: a very beautiful story about two ride-or-die besties who shared such a connection that only natural causes could ever sever.

I love the plot twists. They were tragic, but it gave me that whoa moment. We come full circle by the end and then some. I loved knowing the other end of that scenario, the why’s, and how’s it culminated. This book was heavy, a kind of life questioning one. Well, for me at least. Five years. So many things could happen in five years. You may have it planned to the dot, but life doesn’t just flows and goes to paths you’ve forged, intentionally AND not.

Dannie will get technical. She’s a badass lawyer and she likes facts and data. This book talked about the minute things so much, but I adore it. Her attention to details, her tenacity with her life and plans. But she does get blindsided, and it was heartbreaking to witness, which is why she has Bella. The characters are amazing. I love how Rebecca built them up so steadily, so strongly, and so important to each other. And that was magic! I am seeing this book in a very different angle now, way more than my initial expectations.

I really enjoyed the audiobook. The narrator was great and she kept this book more fun, alive, and emotional. Recommend it on audio if you like audiobooks." —@readby_mishie

"I went into this book expecting a certain type of love story—something a little whimsical with the elements of time travel, but I was wrong (in a good way). It was an emotional read that focused on love in its many forms (friendship, ambition, romantic).⁣

This quote sums it up well: 'You mistake love. Do you think it has to have a future in order to matter, but it doesn’t. It’s the only thing that doesn’t need to become at all. It matters only insofar as it exists. Here. Now. Love doesn’t require a future.'" —@theblondebiblio

"I JUST finished this book, and I came here to share the love. I am having trouble putting into words my thoughts about this book. I really don’t want to spoil anything for anyone, so I’ll keep it vague and short.

So. Many. Feels. I cried. I laughed. I was torn between liking characters, and then I fell in love with them. I expected this to be an open and shut romance, and while there is a romantic element, this story is more about your one person. A story of friendship, a story of love. The first two chapters were mediocre, but I was hooked at the beginning of chapter three. I unwillingly put this book down only for sleep, and work, otherwise I would have demolished it in one setting." —@jojreads

"If you know me, you know this was one of my most anticipated 2020 reads because The Dinner List hit home for me (i.e. I sobbed through the last 25 pages). When I heard that In Five Years was about a lawyer whose five-year-plan was falling apart, I was confused on how Serle got into my brain??

I've been really into coming-of-age stories lately and this was no exception. In Five Years follows Dannie as she realizes her 'perfect' life isn't what she wants. I think a lot of these types of stories result with the protagonist essentially torching their life and starting over, but Serle takes Dannie out of that box in a way that was much more relatable to me as a reader. It made me root for Dannie and also be able to see more of myself in her.

Just like The Dinner List, Rebecca Serle uses a trope (the flash forward) to make the story feel a bit magical. I didn't know how it was going to end until I got there. I like that we went on the journey and discovered what Dannie was learning as she learned it, as opposed to knowing where it would go based on hints at the beginning. I think that's a sign of a great author." —@bookstagr.em

"I started this yesterday and ended up finishing it by the end of the night, so you can say it was a great read! Plus with all of this #socialdistancing we are getting in lots of free time!

This book was really good and so emotional. But in a good way. This was my first book by Rebecca and won't be my last. I loved the story, the characters, and you def want to keep on reading to see what is going to happen next. I also loved the friendship between Dannie and Bella. It makes you think of your own friendship with that certain person you grew up with and is still your best friend! I also loved the relationship with all the characters even though David kinda irritated me in some spots and the ending could have been a bit better to see what was going to happen next. Maybe we will find out in a second book?" —@novelsandjava

"If you need a quarantine book, In Five Years by Rebecca Serle is perfect. It’s full of friendship, love, and plenty of hope for what’s to come. This book was heartwarming, happy, sad, and makes you grateful for the people you love most. It also makes you question how things can change so quickly. This book will bring back the warm fuzzies you might be missing during quarantine." —@books_n_bevrages

"I finished In Five Years by Rebecca Serle a couple of nights ago, and I feel a little conflicted—it’s not really what I expected going into it, and though that’s fine, it ended up not being what I wanted. It was still a good book, and I found it entertaining! I just wish I’d known what I was getting myself into.

It’s sold as a romantic comedy, and it reminded me in many ways of One Day in December by Josie Silver. However, it takes a turn that makes the book much darker than I was expecting. It is also worth noting that it is not about romantic love, really, at allit is about the love between lifelong best friends, grief, and all the ways in which life can throw us curveballs, making it impossible to ever really map out what our lives might look like in five years. Ultimately, I think I ended up liking it, but I would have appreciated being a little more emotionally prepared. I wanted something fun and light, and this wasn’t it." —@bookishmadeleine

"Where do you see yourself in five years? The familiar, expected interview question. When Dannie is asked this at an interview for the job of her dreams, she has the perfect, well-planned out answer. That night she goes to sleep next to her fiancé, knowing her five year plan is on track. Then she wakes up, exactly five years in the future. She's in a different apartment and with a different man. She spends one intense hour in the future, and then wakes again back in the present day. She doesn't believe in visions, but she knows this was more than just a dream and she can't seem to shake it. Then, four-and-a-half years later, she comes face-to-face with this man from her dream.

This was such a beautiful and emotional story. Full of life, love, heartbreak, friendship, fate. The plot pulls you in from the beginning, making it hard to put down. I thought this was going to be more of a love story, and some of it is, but it was surprisingly more about the love shared between best friends and I found that really moving. I feel like saying anything else about this one would spoil it, so I'll just say I definitely recommend picking this book up." —@the_bookish_banana

"This book was not at all what I was expecting, but I enjoyed it so much. I went into it thinking it would be light/cute/romanc-y, but the tone was much more emotional with friendship, life’s uncontrollable moments, and the power to love and be loved at its core. Four out of five stars." —@hernovelnook

"I adored Rebecca Serle’s The Dinner List, so I couldn’t wait to get my hands on her new book. The premise of this book is so unique. I flew through it because I couldn’t begin to guess how the story would resolve itself. In Five Years was magical, heart-wrenching, and romantic all at the same time." —@theshelfaroundthecorner

"In Five Years was such a beautiful story of love, heartache, and most of all, friendship. I have to say, I did not expect this book to be at all what it was. It was filled with surprises and I honestly enjoyed every minute of it. The story maintained an easy and quick momentum, the characters were raw and real, the story dealt with tough issues, and the ending left me at a loss for words. Just know, this is not your 'traditional' love story. The books centers mostly around friendship, hardships, and love. Pure, unbreakable love. Please read this and let me know what you think because it's days later and I am still processing it all." —@foreverbookedup

Missed out on our April book club pick? In May, we'll be reading New York Times bestselling author Emma Straub's latest novel, All Adults Here. Read an exclusive excerpt from the book here.

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(Image credit: Design by Morgan McMullen)
Rachel Epstein

Rachel Epstein is a writer, editor, and content strategist based in New York City. Most recently, she was the Managing Editor at Coveteur, where she oversaw the site’s day-to-day editorial operations. Previously, she was an editor at Marie Claire, where she wrote and edited culture, politics, and lifestyle stories ranging from op-eds to profiles to ambitious packages. She also launched and managed the site’s virtual book club, #ReadWithMC. Offline, she’s likely watching a Heat game or finding a new coffee shop.