Sunday, May 8, 2016

Once Was a Time by Leila Sales, 2016

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In the war-ravaged England of 1940, Charlotte Bromley is sure of only one thing: Kitty McLaughlin is her best friend in the whole world. But when Charlotte's scientist father makes an astonishing discovery that the Germans will covet for themselves, Charlotte is faced with an impossible choice between danger and safety. Should she remain with her friend or journey to another time and place? Her split-second decision has huge consequences, and when she finds herself alone in the world, unsure of Kitty's fate, she knows that somehow, some way, she must find her way back to her friend. Written in the spirit of classic time-travel tales, this book is an imaginative and heartfelt tribute to the unbreakable ties of friendship.
(272 pages)

I'm still reeling, taking in all of the thoughts and experiences I had while reading Once Was a Time. 

I initially wanted to read it because it has time travel in it, but I soon realized that this is far more than just your average "time travel book." Lottie isn't an adventurer; she's just a ten-year-old girl from WWII-era England who ran through a portal to escape danger and suddenly found herself in Wisconsin in 2013. Watching her find her way through our world, watching her discover everything that's been invented in the last seventy years, was fascinating. At times, I even forgot that she had come to my own time; everything was so foreign and frightening to her that I found myself just as scared as Lottie, just as disconcerted by the cavalier 21st-century attitudes that I'm normally used to.

I love watching Lottie struggle to adapt to her new persona of "Charlotte the foster kid," and to bluff her way through life as a completely normal 21st-century kid. You can see how she almost loses control of herself, how she throws away everything that made her her in her attempt to fit in and be welcomed by those around her. She compromises so much to fit in (both when it comes to keeping her life a secret, and to being popular at school), and I really loved watching her come to the realization that she is still in control of her own life even though she's not living the life she'd expected when she was little.

I can't say too much more without spoiling the book, but before I end the review I will say that this book is not completely perfect. I appreciated how well Sales drove home the reality of what it would be like to be forced into such a situation, but I would have preferred to spend even more time watching Lottie go through the transition. As it is, we watch her for a little while and then speed forward to a few years later. Then, near the end, there's another "days turned to months, months to years" segue and we skip forward again in time. I would have liked a longer book that really delved into describing those periods of times, instead of just skipping over them.

All in all, though, I'm so glad I got the chance to read this engaging and thought-provoking book about what it would really be like to travel forward in time. I'm definitely adding it to my favorites list! What are your favorite time travel books? Let me know in the comments below!

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary ARC of this novel from the publisher through a LibraryThing giveaway.

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