2021 was apparently the year for great stories about people who board airplanes only to find themselves years in the future when the planes land, since that’s the premise in this novel as well as the TV series Manifest which was recently on Netflix. These outcomes kind of put the annoyance of hearing from the captain, “We’ll be waiting on the runway for thirty minutes for permission to take off” into perspective. As soon as I heard the description of Your Life Has Been Delayed (2021, 374 pages) I was eager to read it because I love the idea of airplane as time travel portal. I was also intrigued by the time travel gap of only a couple of decades, because my twenty-five-years-ago-self could never have imagined where things would be at today, socially or technologically, so I knew that plotline would be fun.
Summary from Goodreads:
Past and present, friends and crushes collide in a YA debut about a girl who takes off on a flight and lands 25 years later.
Jenny Waters boards her flight in 1995, but when she lands, she and the other passengers are told they disappeared . . . 25 years ago. Everyone thought they were dead.
Now contending with her family and friends fast-forwarding decades, Jenny must quickly adjust to smartphones and social media while being the biggest story to hit the internet. She feels betrayed by her once-best friend and fights her attraction to a cute boy with an uncomfortable connection to her past. Meanwhile, there’s a growing group of conspiracy theorists determined to prove the whole situation is a hoax. Will Jenny figure out how to move forward, or will she always be stuck in the past?
I think the airplane-as-time travel portal idea works really well. After all, being on a plane among the clouds is one of the only times that you are not able to completely monitor developments on earth in real time. It’s fun to imagine touching down to a changed world. In many kids’ time travel stories two or three friends work very hard to perfect a time travel device, often with the assistance of an eccentric old scientist. In other stories, kids get a glimpse of something mysterious and out of place (a tiny gap in the space-time continuum) and pursue it, thus discovering a time travel portal. The main characters in both of these kinds of stories get sucked into a time vortex with all the attendant nausea and dizziness that entails. Then there are stories such as this one in which the characters are totally clueless that they have unwittingly bridged the space-time continuum. If I were to time travel, I’m sure I would find myself in this third “wait–what?” group. 🙂
For me, when characters in time travel novels travel into the past, it throws details of the past into sharp relief. Similarly, I think Jenny’s reactions to many things that today’s teens take for granted, such as social media, will allow readers to view those things with fresh eyes. I believe teens would be amused to read about someone their own age struggling to understand how to use a smartphone and social media (as opposed to adults struggling which is the norm). Jenny learns some lessons about social media the hard way. Social media is a huge element in the lives of many contemporary teens, and anything that highlights the perils and helps them reflect on appropriate use is I think helpful.
This is primarily a story about relationships. The most interesting to me were that of the relationship between Jenny and her best friend Angie, and of Jenny and her brother. A lot happened in Angie’s life in the twenty-five years that Jenny was missing. You could say they grew apart, but actually her friend just grew away from her. Without giving too much away, I will just note that as if Angie living a separate life for twenty-five years was not hard enough on the friendship, Jenny also has to find a way to accept the choice Angie made re her life partner. Their attempts to salvage some kind of friendship are touching. Jenny also has to get used to a changed “little brother” who is now grown with a family of his own. Jenny has a tight-knit family, and so in addition she has to get used to changes in her relationships with her parents and a grandmother. Annoying enemy turned friend is a trope in middle grade books, but it never gets old for me. So it was fun to read about Jenny’s growing friendship with Art, a young man she met on the plane who initially drove her crazy. I didn’t find Jenny’s romance with a new peer to be very interesting, but it was cute enough.
For a YA book, this story was not “dark” at all. The romance was sweet and innocent. I think this story might appeal to more girls than boys, and would be appropriate for kids as young as sixth grade. I highly recommend this one!