Okay–I’ll overlook the excessive drinking and pot use by the teenage main characters in the YA novel Proof of Forever, by Lexa Hillyer, (2015, 125 pages). But I draw the line at the inner voice of a main character that sounds like a female version of Harvey Weinstein (She misses…her ability to raise one shoulder at a guy and give him a certain look, and know, deep down, that she can have him if she wants him.) Also, girls calling another girl a “ho” is uncool. Third, the depiction of texting while driving is inexcusable. Unlike with most of the books I review, instead of donating this book to the local PTA Thrift Shop or to one of several Little Free Libraries that dot my community, I’m putting it in the recycling bin.
Before: It was the perfect summer of first kisses, skinny-dipping, and bonfires by the lake. Joy, Tali, Luce, and Zoe knew their final summer at Camp Okahatchee would come to an end, but they swore they’d stay friends.
After: Now, two years later, their bond has faded along with those memories.
Then: That is, until the fateful flash of a photo booth camera transports the four of them back in time, to the summer they were fifteen—the summer everything changed.
Now: The girls must recreate the past in order to return to the present. As they live through their second-chance summer, the mystery behind their lost friendship unravels, and a dark secret threatens to tear the girls apart all over again.
Always: Summers end. But this one will change them forever
It’s a shame this book is so flawed, because the story is based on several good ideas. First of all, the photo booth makes a perfect time travel portal. It’s small, and when you pull the curtain closed, you lose contact with the outside world, making it easy for the universe to swap out your year with a different one. The coolest aspect, though, is that the booth itself captures a moment in time. However, I don’t think photo booths are as exciting to today’s teens who enjoy ubiquitous selfies as they were to my generation. (I put some of my own photo booth pics on the right for those not familiar with the medium. It was such fun to cram into those tiny booths with your friends.:))
Second, time travel “do-overs” in a story are almost always intriguing. I have reviewed several novels in which the main character time travels back in their own life for a very short period of time (my post on short-term time travel), or a day, or a few years. As a reader, it is always fun to imagine having a second chance to do things differently in one’s life. Also, this plot device lends itself to showing emotional growth of a character.
I like the idea of the time travel in this book being related to the friendship among four girls who have grown apart, that want to be close again. However, the sisterhood didn’t really gel until the last fourth of the book. Prior to that, the girls were mostly strangers to one another and seldom conversed. The girls seemed more focused on their love interests, with their female friends existing on the periphery.
The summer camp setting was a great choice on the part of the author. People can reinvent themselves at sleepaway camps because there are few people from back home who know them. This works well in this story since the girls are all trying to discover their true personalities, and experimenting with acting differently. I like how the girls connect with the nature elements–lake, woods– at the camp. (Although if the camp in this story is representative of what sleepaway camps are like today, I’m having second thoughts about someday sending my kids to one! ;))
I can’t recommend Proof of Forever, but here’s two other YA books in which the protagonists go a few years back in their own time that I highly recommend:
Gimme a Call by Sarah Mlynowski
Alice in Time by Penelope Bush