A Year Without Autumn by Liz Kessler
|A Year Without Autumn by Liz Kessler|
|Genre: Confident Readers|
|Reviewer: Linda Lawlor|
|Summary: Jenni is transported exactly one year into the future, and discovers that in the intervening months tragedy has struck and her life will never be the same again. Liz Kessler popped into Bookbag Towers to chat to us.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 256||Date: April 2011|
|Publisher: Orion Children's Books|
It just takes one action, one small, apparently insignificant word or deed to change your world forever. You miss a plane and it crashes. You change your usual numbers and win the lottery. You miss a party because you have a spot, and never get to meet your soul-mate. For Jenni, things are even worse because somehow she ends up a year in the future, when the damage is done and the fallout is already destroying the safe, happy life she knew.
Unlike other Liz Kessler books we have reviewed here at Bookbag, magic does not permeate the whole of Jenni's existence. There is one single item which moves people in time, but the rest of life is ordinary and everyday. The combination is fascinating, as if Professor Dumbledore's Pensieve had wandered into a Jacqueline Wilson novel.
One of the themes of the book is the impact a single tragedy has one everyone around, even those outside the immediate family. People change, becoming wary, resentful and anxious. Relationships founder. New habits and behaviours develop. And Jenni has to cope with all of this without any warning, in a split-second. Her own confusion as she struggles to understand and accept what has happened is clear, and will give more thoughtful young readers plenty to ponder and discuss.
All these changes to the people she loves are obliquely and skilfully underlined by physical changes in her surroundings. First of all, Jenni's clothes become too small when she is finds herself in the future. She even finds she has the new haircut she had been longing for at the start of the book. Secondly, her brother grows taller and thinner (although his seriously laconic attitude to tidying his room remains constant). And thirdly, the holiday camp which is the setting for the book alters. Trees grow. New car parks are marked out. And Jenni's best friend Autumn moves from a luxury suite to a smaller, less expensive flat on the ground floor.
Tears and sorrow and sacrifice are needed to bring this tale to a happy ending, and it shows a lot about Jenni that in the midst of her struggles she is also willing to help people she hardly knows. As the book opens she is shy, and has a tendency to allow others to take the lead. But although she remains true to her essential character, she finds the strength within herself to speak up, and to fight with determination and courage to save her family and her friendship. Tucked in there, in all the drama of time-travel, is a more subtle theme: the importance of being yourself and not always giving in to people just because they are extravert and bubbly and popular. A true friendship is about sharing equally, and about listening to each other. And, most of all, it is about refusing to walk away when things get hard.
One minor complaint about this book is that the beginning is a little slow, and our heroine's thoughts on looking into the future are a heavy-handed way to introduce the theme. But once the real action of the book gets going, readers will be gripped. The exclamation-mark-riddled prose is abandoned as Jenni fights to save a life, two families and a friendship, and her refusal to give up when things seem impossible is inspiring. Young readers who are going through difficult times in their own family life or friendships will understand that there is no magic solution for them, but they will be heartened to see their problems portrayed so clearly and sensitively in this story.
Many thanks to Orion for kindly sending us this thought-provoking story.
Further reading suggestion: Readers who enjoy this book will also like other books by Liz Kessler which combine real life and magic. Emily Windsnap and the Castle in the Mist is about a girl who is half human, half mermaid, while Philippa Fisher and the Dream Maker's Daughter and Philippa Fisher and the Stone Fairy's Promise are charming tales of a girl who has a fairy godsister.
Liz Kessler was kind enough to be interviewed by Bookbag.
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