Friday, February 3, 2017

Future Flash by Kita Helmetag Murdock, 2014

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For as long as she can remember, Laney has been having “future flashes”—visions of the future that she sees when she makes physical contact with another person. Left on a doorstep as a baby, Laney’s past has always been cloudy to her, despite the clarity with which she can see the future. Her caretaker, Walt, claims to be her father, but Laney has a nagging suspicion that he isn’t quite telling her the entire truth. And when a new kid, Lyle, moves to her small town, Laney is dreading meeting him—she almost always gets a future flash when first meeting someone new, and the flashes aren’t always good. Unfortunately, her meeting with Lyle isn’t just bad; it’s painful. Engulfed in flames, Lyle’s future flash is the worst Laney’s ever experienced. But what does it mean? Is there anything Laney can do to change the future? And will she be able to save Lyle not only from a fiery death but also from the merciless class bully without becoming a victim of his antics herself?

In this thrilling and imaginative middle grade novel from author Kita Helmetag Murdock, follow Laney as she works against the clock to understand her past and prevent the disaster looming in the future.

(208 pages)

Such an interesting premise, isn't this? I'll own that I was originally drawn to the book because it had the word "Flash" in the cover–I've been a bit of a flash addict ever since I started watching The Flash last year! The "flashes" that happen here aren't anything like Barry Allen's bursts of speed, though. Instead, the awesome premise of the story is that Laney gets "future flashes" of things that will happen at some point. I'm not sure whether it's ESP or actual magic, but it's fun to imagine what it would be like to grow up with a power like that.

Unfortunately, I didn't feel like the book quite lived up to its potential. It needed to be longer, I think. I wanted more time to get to know Laney's caretaker, Walt. We get no idea of who he is, what his past was or what sort of personality he has, outside of a few stray snatches. Laney seems to be angry at him for not telling her the truth of how she came to live with him, but she also loves him. Why? What makes their relationship tick? And, for that matter, how did she go through her entire childhood without ever letting slip that she remembered the day he found her on the doorstep? I don't think any real child could manage to hold something that big in for so long.

Also, I wish there had been more of an explanation for Laney's powers. Because basically, we don't get  an explanation. There's no hint of a mythology behind it, or a culture, or even an explanation of why certain people got it but most didn't. I was also frustrated by descriptions of Laney's mother, who sounds like such a flake–because seriously, who just ups and abandons their kid like that? I don't care how good she thought her reasons were, she just shouldn't have done that.

There were a few other areas that weren't as well-developed as I'd have liked, but I'm not going to drag this review down by listing them all out. Instead, let's look at the positives: I still really like the idea of getting selective flashes of someone's future. I liked reading about Walt's sort-of girlfriend and Laney's mother figure, Carmen. She's a baker who seems like an amazing person, and I honestly wish she'd come bake and talk with me once in a while. I liked Lyle, though I really would have liked more insight into his character by learning more about his past. I really liked observing the rather complex relationship between Laney and the school bully, Axel. Most of the time he's an absolute jerk, but through Laney's memories of when they were both much younger we get a more nuanced and sympathetic look at why he acts so horribly now. The past doesn't excuse the way he treats people now, of course, but it does make for some interesting complexity in the character.

All in all, Future Flash is an interesting book but it could have been better. I would have been much more invested in the characters if I'd gotten more information about them, if I felt like I really knew them. Since that wasn't the case, I only recommend Future Flash to you if you like sci-fi-ish thriller-ish books with cool premises that they don't quite fill in completely.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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