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A Crack in the Line (Withern Rise Series #1)

A Crack in the Line (Withern Rise Series #1)

4.1 7
by Michael Lawrence

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What if someone else was living your life?

You are sixteen. You live with your father in a big Victorian house on the outskirts of London. Your mother is dead, killed in a train crash two years ago. It is snowing. The snow is falling on the house and the wide yard and the gnarled old tree that everyone calls the Family Tree. It makes you restless. You reach


What if someone else was living your life?

You are sixteen. You live with your father in a big Victorian house on the outskirts of London. Your mother is dead, killed in a train crash two years ago. It is snowing. The snow is falling on the house and the wide yard and the gnarled old tree that everyone calls the Family Tree. It makes you restless. You reach out your hands toward an object you've known all your life, and suddenly the walls melt away. When you open your eyes, you are still in your living room. "Who are you?" asks a girl who looks just like you but is not you. "And what are you doing in my house?"

You have stumbled into another version of your life. This girl is sixteen. She lives wth your father (her father) in a big Victorian house on the outskirts of London. Your mother (her mother) is not dead. She had a close call in a train crash two years ago. Listen: your mother is calling you (her) now.

Michael Lawrence's gripping thriller about a boy and a girl who are the same person—but not quite—will have you turning the pages late into the night...and talking and thinking and wondering about the shifting nature of identity, time, space, and the cracks that can appear in a train rail, a lifeline, and a family tree.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Alternate realities are the theme of this gloomily introspective novel. Exactly two years after his mother was killed in a railway accident, English teenager Alaric finds a way into a version of his life in which his mother has not only survived the train crash, but gone on to win a tidy sum in the lottery. What's more, in this not-quite-parallel world, Alaric himself exists as a girl named Naia ("We're variants of a single individual," as Naia puts it). Once the two 16-year-olds meet, they cannot resist spending the next few days exploring each other's worlds. Alaric mostly just envies Naia, while she does what she can to help her unhappy counterpart (she even tidies a few rooms in his version of their home). Back in his own reality, Alaric and his aunt set to work readying the house for the arrival of Alaric's future stepmother. Fascinating as it is, unfortunately the notion of multiple universes is not enough of a plot to sustain an entire novel. Readers who have themselves experienced losses (and therefore may have a heightened interest in pondering worlds where things have turned out differently) are unlikely to find much comfort in Naia's summing up of what seems to be the book's world view: "Such a terrible loss would surely dull your mind, make you very inward looking and sorry for yourself. A dulled mind was less likely to find inspiration or to be intrigued by much beyond its own very limited horizons." Ages 13-up. (Aug.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
This fantastic tale opens by introducing Alaric Underwood (a boy born at 5:20 p.m. on 5 October 1988) and—shortly afterward—by introducing Naia Underwood (a girl born at 5:20 p.m. on 5 October 1988). Their birth dates and surnames are not the only things the sixteen year old teens Alaric and Naia have in common: each teen has a father named Ivan, each teen lives in an English house named Withern Rise, and each teen was born to a woman named Alexandra who was injured in a train accident several years earlier. Troublesome questions quickly arise, however, because Alaric's mother died in the accident but Naia's mother survived, and the two teens had never seen each other until now—the anniversary of Alaric's mother's death. What does it all mean? It means that grief-burdened Alaric and ostensibly happy Naia live parallel but different existences in Withern Rise. Suddenly discovering each other, and uncomfortable about even acknowledging each other's existence, Alaric and Naia set out to solve the mystery of their strange simultaneity through an investigation of Withern Rise, a house filled with both secrets and answers. Michael Lawrence's nicely detailed, cleverly plotted novel (with infrequent obscenities that may offend some readers) bogs down occasionally under the weight of abstractions but generally offers a fascinating look at two emotionally vulnerable, intensely adventurous teenagers and their intriguing metaphysical dilemma. 2004, Greenwillow/HarperCollins, Ages 14 to 18.
—Tim Davis
A haunting passage introduces readers to 16-year-olds Alaric and Naia: "They shared a history, a lineage, memories, and had lived all their lives in the same house, Withern Rise, where they had occupied the same room, done the same things? . . . ?and yet? . . . ?they had never met." Two years after the death of his mother, Alaric's life is not all he wishes it to be. His father's girlfriend is moving in and the house is in great disrepair. While moping about he discovers his mother's folly—a glass-domed shade from the Edwardian era. The folly contains the last project Alaric's mother Alex made before her death, a scale model of Withern Rise. What appears to be a harmless object from the past takes on a new meaning to Alaric and Naia, bringing every aspect of their lives into possible peril. Many intriguing questions surface in this finely crafted narrative—perceptions of time and space, the effects of chance, and the consequences, both seen and unseen, of our choices. Well-developed characters, an intricate plot and haunting suspense make this first volume of the Withern Rise Trilogy a valuable addition to the YA collections of school and public libraries. (The Withern Rise Trilogy). KLIATT Codes: JS*—Exceptional book, recommended for junior and senior high school students. 2003, HarperCollins, Greenwillow, 323p., Ages 12 to 18.
—Ernie Cox
Two years after his mother's tragic death in a railway accident, Alaric and his father are fading into despair and are barely able to clean their home. Stumbling onto a family heirloom carved by his mother, Alaric touches the wooden sculpture, feeling thundering emotions and body-wrenching pain as he is whisked to a parallel universe, landing near a large tree in a strange garden. Before he can gather his wits, he is transported inside a home eerily similar to his own. There the sixteen-year-old is stunned to find a girl named Naia with the same eyes, nose, and jaw line as his own. In Naia's home sits an identical wooden sculpture, labeled her mother's Folly, and the astute teens quickly realize that the Folly is the catalyst for movement between the two worlds. Naia's mother-a duplicate of Alaric's mother-is living, having survived a train wreck after being given the same fifty-fifty odds of survival that doctors gave Alaric's mother. The teens ponder the existence of the two worlds, how they are able to move between them, and the question of Naia's mother living and Alaric's mother dying. From this intriguing beginning, the story becomes somewhat muddled with sidebars of their fathers' affairs, a promiscuous ancestor, and an eccentric aunt interrupting the flow of the story. British vernacular and the jumbled plot will bother less sophisticated readers, but dual story lines of life disrupted by a simple, minute crack in a railway line and teens challenging their destinies will fascinate enthusiasts of mystical fantasy. VOYA CODES: 4Q 4P J S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Broad general YA appeal; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades10 to 12). 2004, HarperCollins, 336p., and PLB Ages 12 to 18.
—Rollie Welch
School Library Journal
Gr 7-10-Alaric and Naia, both 16, have nearly identical lives in parallel worlds. Their parents, their house, and their circumstances are the same, with one major difference. Alaric's mother was killed in a train wreck, while Naia's mother survived. This story of alternate realities raises questions about how one's life might be changed forever by a certain turn of events. Alaric's home is dreary, dirty, and joyless and he misses his mother terribly. Naia lives in a world of light and privilege, with a clean, nicely furnished house and two loving parents. Through an association with a tree in the garden of their mutual home, the two teenagers travel back and forth from one world to the other. Working together, they try to make sense of what has happened to them and why. This is a very engaging tale at the outset. Lawrence vividly describes the same house under radically different circumstances and it becomes the focal point of the story. The dialogue contains some British slang and humor but is not difficult to follow. Ultimately Alaric and Naia trade places irreversibly, so that it is now Naia who is motherless. Readers may be left wondering what all this means, but will need to wait for the next volume in the series for a possible explanation.-Bruce Anne Shook, Mendenhall Middle School, Greensboro, NC Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Alaric meets another version of himself in an intriguing story of multiple universes. Alaric lives with his father in Withern Rise, their decrepit family home. The two have lived barren and dysfunctional lives since the death of Alaric's mother two years before. Magic brings Alaric to a world almost like his own-but not quite. His counterpart is Naia, a girl very like himself. Withern Rise is the same, and the teens look as similar as two people can, but Naia's mother is alive. In this universe, she survived the accident that left her with a 50/50 chance to live. What separated the two universes? The 50% chance of survival? The chance that Alaric/Naia would be a boy instead of a girl? A choice made generations earlier? Convoluted but compelling, this moving tale dwells on life, grief, and choices. (Fiction. YA)
The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
“The superior wordcraft, thorough world-building, and compassionate characterization make this novel an attractive choice.”

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Withern Rise Series , #1
Product dimensions:
5.86(w) x 8.54(h) x 1.09(d)
870L (what's this?)
Age Range:
12 - 15 Years

Meet the Author

Michael Lawrence started his working life as a graphic designer and photographer and subsequently worked as (among other things) a television script reader, an antiques dealer, and a publicist for a traveling circus. He now writes full-time and currently lives near Stamford, England, some forty miles from the house in which he was born—the house he calls Withern Rise in The Underwood See.


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Crack in the Line (Withern Rise Series #1) (Turtleback School & Library Binding Edition) 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 21 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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IceyBooks More than 1 year ago
Alaric and Naia are closer than siblings - even closer than twins. They are two versions of the same person, living in two, alternate dimensions, and when their lives are suddenly and inexplicably brought together by a carved model known as Lexie's Folly, they are forced to rethink everything they know about the universe, their families, and themselves. Alaric's mother, Alex Underwood, was involved in a terrible train crash when he was fourteen. She had a fifty-fifty chance of dying. She died. Naia's mother, Alex Underwood, was also involved in a train crash when she was fourteen. This Alex also had a fifty-fifty chance of dying. She lived. Because of this difference, Alaric and Naia's lives are completely different. Naia is carefree and lively, a lot like her mother, while Alaric is sullen and withdrawn, living an almost speechless life with his father in their old, Victorian house in the outskirts of London. His only source of happiness is his Aunt Liney, who acts as a sort of babysitter while Alaric's father is away, but Alaric rejects her as well, still bitter over his mother's death. A Crack in the Line by Michael Lawrence is incomplete on its own - it needs to be read with its sequel - Small Eternities (which also leaves you dangling). But I've heard The Underwood See (I still haven't read it, but I'd like to) will tie all the loose ends together beautifully. One thing's for sure - these three books form a thought-provoking, intriguing trilogy that you just can't miss!
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Guest More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book. It was very well written and the plot was cool. My favorite part was how as the book progressed the characters and writing sounded more and more British! Very Good!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is one of the best I have ever read. It's very fast paced and exciting, and the only dissipointing thing about it is that it ends.
Guest More than 1 year ago
IF you like a good attention keeper read this book. it will keep you wonder the whole time you are reading it. i strongly recoment this book if you like sci-fi
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is beautifully written. It held me on the edge of my seat the whole time. I loved the alternate endings, as well as the letter that Naia found featuring the two scenarios that could result in dramatically different outcomes. A magical story, though with a lingering sense of reality. You will find yourself wondering if the theory of different realities could happen. After all, no one would really be able to disprove it. I recommend it to anyone of any age, whether they like to read or not. If they don't, they will definetely change their minds after reading this. Small Eternities was also fabulous, and I am looking foward to reading The Underwood See when it comes out. One thing I really liked about this book is that it had no 'boring' description parts in it. Younger readers will often skip over parts describing the landscape, or passages written about how a character did something step-by-step. They would just skip it and read the dialogue. In my opinion, this book had no such parts. I loved this book and finished it in 2 days. Read it and you won't be disappointed!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Kept me up all night, I just HAD to finish it!!! And now I just HAVE to have the next one. Dont'Quite care for the distastfull languge in it though, but it can be ignored.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This imaginative, almost eerie novel depicts two teens, wrapped up in the same life. The strange thing is, they have never met. This is definitely on my top ten list for modern novels. I would recommend it to any reader.
Guest More than 1 year ago
My 15 year old son brought this book home from the library and after reading the inside jacket I decided to read it. I have read many sci-fi and fantasy books and I must say that this book was incredible it really held your attention. I would recommend this book to adults in a heartbeat.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was one of the most amazing books I have ever read. Just every thing about it makes you want to keep on reading.Like in both of the endings, they both make you not want to finish the book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was amazing! I'm 16 and it held me captive all the way through. There were even a couple of instances where I was on the edge of my seat. The main characters, Alaric and Naia, lead the most interesting lives, or better said, life. It's crazy to think about alternate realities, but Michael Lawrence writes about it so well! I loved this book and can't wait for the next one to come out. I recommend this book for all readers 14 and older.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I'm 13, and I really loved this book! I kept reading and reading, i couldn't put it down! I want to read the second book, but it doesn't seem to be in any library or store..
Guest More than 1 year ago
I just finished reading this book and it was awesome. The only bad thing was the alternate endings... I wish he had just chosen one. Either way, each ending was great. And apparently this is a series so I can't wait for the next book
Guest More than 1 year ago
I got this book to review a couple months back but never actually go to it until recently. I can honestly say that this book is quite captivating and it keeps you wanting to know more. It was great from begining till' end. Then end was mildly dissapointing because you'd want to know what happend after it all. Overall I would say it was an awesome book and who ever reads this review should go out and buy it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I picked up this book off the 'new shelf' in the Barnes & Noble near where I live. I've only finished the first chapter or so, but the writing, story, characters thusfar are very welldone. From what I have read I would recommend the book to anyone who might be thinking about reading it.