The fourth in a series of YA adventures by Laing (Look Ahead, Look Back, 2012, etc.) about three time-traveling students who visit flash points in history.
Siblings Hannah and Alex Dias, along with their friend Brandon Clark, have traveled through time with the guidance of history professor Kate Harrower. Since surviving adventures in World War II–era England and the antebellum American South, the kids are back in sleepy present-day Snipesville, Georgia. Alex and Brandon become irritated while watching the Pageant of Snipes County Pride’s bland portrayal of early-20th-century race relations, so they seek out more information on the Atlanta Riot of 1906. Alex doesn’t care for time travel, but Hannah loves it and practices mind exercises in order to do it on her own. She first visits England in 1951, where her friends Verity Powell and Mrs. Devenish live; she eventually ends up in 1906, as a maid in the Ickswade home; there, she hopes to help 19-year-old Elizabeth Hughes—the younger Mrs. Devenish—who’s a proponent of women’s suffrage. Soon, Brandon (who’s African-American) goes back to 1906 Snipesville, where racial segregation exists as a system of printed signs and unspoken rules. Alex follows and works his way through the socially tormented land to meet up with Brandon, who’s trying to help establish a school for African-Americans. In this fourth Snipesville Chronicles novel, Laing crafts an informative, if loosely structured, tale for both adult and YA readers. Early on, for example, professor Harrower asks questions that readers might not hear addressed in a classroom, such as “Why did so many white southerners fight for the Confederacy when three fourths of them did not own slaves?” Laing’s command of historical details is formidable throughout; for instance, Brandon isn’t allowed to borrow library books in 1906, and Hannah mistakenly goes through the Hughes home’s front door instead of the servants’ entrance. These instances and others show how daunting 20th-century life was for those who weren’t white, male, and moneyed. Harrower’s advice to Hannah that someday “we all have to stop...looking for the approval of others, and start having confidence in ourselves” is excellent, no matter the era or the circumstances. Longtime readers of the series will also be pleasantly surprised by the endearing finale.
A sometimes-wandering but consistently challenging entry in the Snipesville Chronicles.