Saturday, September 3, 2011

A Year Without Autumn

Candlewick, October 11, 2011

Sometimes I wish I could go back in time and hand books to my nine year-old self. From the first chapter of A Year Without Autumn I wished I could do this. It seems that there are relatively few books these days that start with loving, supportive families. Jenni's parents are in-love and expecting their third child, and while her little brother can be annoying, Jenni loves him nevertheless. They are looking forward to being a family of five and enjoying their yearly one-week family vacation. Like every year, Jenni's best friend Autumn will be having vacation the same week, in the same time-share community as Jenni. As is often the case with best friends, Jenni and Autumn are very different. Autumn is out-going, adventurous,and daring- the daughter of artists. Jenni is sensible, intelligent, and cautious...a trait few young protagonists are applauded for.

The first day of vacation, Jenni goes to meet Autumn, taking the old elevator up to her condo when the new one doesn't arrive. But Autumn isn't in her condo, someone else is. Autumn's parents' car is gone, and things look slightly different. When Jenni returns to her parents' condo, she's met with a messy living room, a baby sister, and an overly anxious mother. These are only the beginning of the changes, the biggest of which is that Autumn's little brother is in a coma, thrown from a horse one year ago. This pivotal event has completely altered both families, and wrecked Jenni and Autumn's relationship.

Liz Kessler carefully handles the issues faced by both Jenni and Autumn in their possible future. As Jenni doesn't get mentally older when she time travels, the snippets she sees, though difficult, are entirely age appropriate. In presenting only snippets of Autumn & Jenni's future, Kessler has allowed readers to view the situations through their personal experience, meaning the extent of difficultly will reflect what they are ready to handle.

Emotionally wrenching, slightingly magical, and with a happy ending that fits perfectly, A Year Without Autumn impossible to put down. If my nine year-old self had been handed this, I would have hidden under the covers until I finished reading (despite school in the morning) and then immediately passed the book on to a friend.

A Year Without Autumn is a coming of age story that acknowledges the difficult realities and unexpected joys of growing up and assures readers that despite how things seem, they can always change.

Ages 9-12

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