Writing: 4; Characters: 4; Plot: 4
I love YA books and this one was a lot of fun. Best for the 12 – 14 year old crowd.
14 year old Freddie knows she is “doomed to be sensitive forever”. She lives with her younger sister Mel and her step-brother Roland, a tall, hulking, deaf teenager who seems to bring both order and chaos to everything he touches. Freddie works hard to stay as invisible as possible. Enter the weird new neighbors who take the lonely house on Grosvenor Street. Cuerva LaChance is a Mrs. Whatsit like creature who is almost always cheerful and has a capital case of super ADD; Josiah is a humorless, bored 14 year old who picks fights by simply existing. Freddie is horrified to find him in most of her classes.
The book starts slowly, appearing to be a typical coming-of-age story, but around 30% of the way in it takes off stratospherically, or rather time-ospherically, as time travel suddenly reaches in and literally yanks Freddie and Josiah off on a pinball machine like journey covering 9th century Sweden, prehistoric China, 17th century France, and 92nd century (yes, 92nd!) England. Characters from Norse, Polynesian, and Chinese mythology are woven in and as a bonus, we learn the identity of the “person from Porlock” – historically blamed for interrupting Coleridge as he scribbled the poem Kubla Khan. While Josiah is blasé about the adventure, having literally lived though it before, Freddie is given every possibility to learn and grow up and help unravel a world altering mystery facing them in the current time. What or Who exactly is Three? And why is their “Choice” so important?
FYI, as a veteran SF reader, I was impressed with her handling of the time travel – both philosophically and mechanically. I was also very impressed with the literary and mythological references. It’s not often you find a book that can move through such different areas so smoothly.