Seeking Relatives in the Past

I like economical use of words. Terseness. In pretty much all areas of my life except dessert, I believe Less is More. It could be argued I should just read a haiku. So it’s hardly fair of me to review This Isn’t What it Looks Like, pseudonynous bosch, (2010, 423 pages). This Isn’t, like the other four books in the Secret Series, is full of digressions. I could see that it had multiple footnotes, and supplementary sections. Not my style at all. I knew this going in.  So it was no real surprise that I was so done with this book before, sadly, I was done reading it.

This Isn’t is the fourth book in the The Secret Series Collection which consists of five books by an unknown author with the pen name pseudonymous bosch. The first is The Name of This Book is Secret (2008). The last, You Have to Stop This, one was published in 2011. A couple of years ago I read the second in the series. The plot of This Isn’t was kind of confusing to me. There were too many characters I got mixed up. I don’t think this book stands well on its own. If you’re interested in it, I think you need to commit to the whole series.

Time travel aficionados might say this is not truly a time travel book. It’s the first one I’ve reviewed in which the main character travels to the past while in a coma. I read it because I am, like many people fascinated with (and probably romanticize) the coma state. There are other time travel coma books, mostly for teens and adults, and they all sound intriguing to me. However, the main character Cass does not really travel. That is, her body lies on the hospital bed the whole time she is having her adventures in the past. The author doesn’t have to deal with the problem of how to account for time traveling characters’ sudden disappearance or elapsed time while they time travel. Is Cass living two realities at once? It isn’t really explained.

In this series the three main characters are middle-schoolers Cass, Max-Ernest, and Yo-Yogi who are members of the secret Terces society, which is a force for good. Their enemy is the evil Midnight Sun organization. Near the end of the third book Cass eats some Midnight Sun chocolate which puts her into a coma. While in the coma, Cass travels back in time to the Middle Ages and tries to find the Jester who is the founder of the Terces society, and also a distant grandfather of hers. She has recently been appointed secret-keeper of the Terces Society, and she is seeking the Jester because he is thought to have the answer to the secret to immortality that she is supposed to guard.

As I said, I didn’t like the book. Still, I admit This Isn’t What it Looks Like has a lot to recommend it. It’s funny and the three main characters are well-developed. I even enjoyed some of the minor characters, Daniel-not-Danielle and Glob. Glob has his own blog, and I had fun reading Glob’s blog entries. There is a drawing at the beginning of each chapter. (It looks like there are 21 chapters but it’s hard to tell because they are not in numerical order and one is labelled “zero”.) The author done some innovative things with the structure of the book, for example adding notes directly to the reader that are not part of the story.

Back to Before, Jan Slepian, (1993, 170 pages) does not really have much in common with This Isn’t. I just really wanted to read This Isn’t, and I couldn’t find a book to pair it with. But I liked Back to Before more. In this book we meet cousins Linny (male) and Hilary (female) at the beginning of their eleventh summer. They spend every summer at a farmhouse in Vermont. But this summer is different because in the preceding year, Linny’s mother died, while Hilary’s parents separated and her dad moved far away.

The second night they are in VT there is an unusually powerful storm and the nearby river floods. The farmhouse is not damaged although many houses nearby are destroyed. The next day it is raining and very foggy. Linny and Hilary go out riding a bike, riding double. Linny pedals as fast as he can into the fog. They are being reckless. The sheriff shouts a warning but they keep going. Suddenly the road crumbles behind them and they are falling through air. The next minute they find themselves pedaling a bike down a street in Brooklyn, where they lived most of their lives.

They figure out they have gone back in time one year. Linny’s mother is still alive, and Hilary’s dad hasn’t left the family yet! The pair try to keep these awful events from happening. Linny is overjoyed to be back in time, although Hilary worries they will get stuck there.

I loved this book because the storyline was so emotional, dealing with the big topics of death and divorce. I liked the supportive friendship between the cousins. The main characters seemed very human, and most of the other characters were believable as well. It was an absorbing story. Loved the Brooklyn setting, and details like people shouting down from third-floor windows to folks on the street, and people sitting on the stoop.


About Susan

I blog about middle grade and YA time travel books. I'm the author of Time Jump Coins.
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5 Responses to Seeking Relatives in the Past

  1. Great titles to add to my list of books for my kids. Thanks!

  2. Rachel Carpenter says:

    Sue, my son Ian, age 12, loves the Secret series. Have you reviewed the Half Magic books? Those are popular at our house, too.

    • Susan says:
        Great to hear from you, Rachel! Glad your son has a series he enjoys. It must be fun to wait for the next one in a series to be published. Re Half Magic are you talking about the Edward Eager books? For some reason I couldn’t get into them, although I don’t know why because they are similar to other time travel tales I like.
      • Rachel Carpenter says:

        Yes, I do mean the Edward Eager books. We read them aloud quite a bit when the kids were younger.

        I enjoy your blog.

  3. Pingback: List: Time Travel Book Series for Kids |

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