Gr 9 Up—In the year 2015, Sonnet McKay is home for the summer after traveling the world with her diplomat father. Trying to find self-confidence, she feels overshadowed by the bright light that is her sister, Jules. In 1895, Emma Sweetwine lives day by day, wondering when her vicious mother will lose her temper again. She dreams of a life far from her family's claustrophobic Victorian mansion, where she can find the love that her mother has failed to give her. While in the same house, fateful storms sends the two girls 120 years through time, switching lives. Emma discovers the world is much bigger than she could have ever dreamed, and Sonnet understands the power of true friendship. As both girls fight to make their way back to their real lives, they uncover secrets that have simmered below the surface of their families for years. After a confusing setup, Von Schleh struggles to establish her characters within the time-travel plot. Emma and Sonnet are not fleshed out enough in their contemporary time periods, which results in character voices that seem genuinely out of place and distant. Awkward pacing, dialogue, and an unnecessary romance distracts from the meat of the story, which is the two teens' desire for true connection and belonging. The author skillfully pulls back the layers of each family, but this doesn't occur until late in the novel. VERDICT A nonessential purchase for libraries.—Elise Martinez, Zion-Benton Public Library, IL
This YA debut sees two teenage girls switch places in time with significant repercussions.
Fifteen-year-old Sonnet McKay, originally from South Africa, is visiting her grandfather in Seattle for the summer. One day, she explores the abandoned town of Monte Cristo with her twin brother, Evan; her sister, 16-year-old Jules; and their teenage cousins Lia and Niki. Also present is Evan's friend Rapp Loken, on whom Sonnet has a major crush. After the group enters a decrepit mansion, Sonnet and Rapp go upstairs to a bedroom. Rapp dares her to hide inside the closet as a prank on the others. As Sonnet does so, a gust of wind blows through the window and slams the closet door behind her. She suffers a confusing, painful tumble through "shimmery air," then wakes up surrounded by people who think her name is Emma. Meanwhile, 15-year-old Emma Sweetwine, from 1895, has likewise fallen through a closet—her own, in her parents' Monte Cristo home. She wakes in 2015, surrounded by Rapp and company, who nearly mistake her for Sonnet. At first, neither girl can believe her circumstances. But as events roll forward, Sonnet and Emma acclimate to their new centuries and learn that getting back home will require planning, determination, and love. In her novel, Von Schleh tackles one of the more devilish sci-fi conundrums, time travel, with gusto. She meticulously inserts the teens—who are spitting images of each other—into culture-shock scenarios relating to language, clothing, and etiquette, both personal and societal. Sonnet finds the enforcement of Victorian norms by Emma's mother insufferable, for the woman has a "laser-like focus on me" that's "a nonstop tsunami, boring down, pounding...on the shores of my new life." Conversely, the modern freedoms Emma enjoys, reluctantly at first, provide heartbreaking revelations. About her peers' speech, she notices: "Nothing was strained through a sieve, picked apart, and checked for merit or effect before being spoken." Von Schleh uses the time-travel device to illustrate robust interior lives for her characters, and in the end, their romantic and familial verisimilitude enhances an already fabulous twist.
Love and equality shape the past and future in this captivating tale.