Time-slips on a time crunch give a teenage girl a long shot at love.
Natalie had thought therapy had banished her favorite hallucination, a mysteriously knowing old woman who calls herself Grandmother and tells Natalie world creation tales and Native American legends. But now she’s returned, with a cryptic message: Natalie only has three months to save an unknown “him.” Before Natalie can puzzle this out, she starts experiencing strange time-slips into an alternate reality where small things are different, centering on a handsome boy who disappears and reappears, a boy to whom Natalie feels an immediate connection. But these moments are unpredictable and disturbing, and Grandmother’s warning hangs overhead, forcing Natalie to spend her last summer before college trying to solve a mystery rooted in suppressed trauma from her past. Natalie, a Native American adoptee, already deals with identity issues that parallel the split worlds she finds herself bouncing between. Moments of introspection are balanced by fully realized secondary characters and occasional moments of hilarity. The story begins slowly but picks up speed and intensity as the clock runs out, ending in a conclusion of intricate twists. Natalie’s specific tribal heritage is unknown, and her search for identity informs the plot in artful ways; although issues surrounding the ethics of cross-cultural adoption and cultural appropriation are carefully touched upon, it’s still hard not to see Natalie’s background as a plot device more than anything else.
While the love is so at-first-sight as to be clichéd and the cultural issues problematic, this debut is otherwise sensitive, lyrical, and deftly plotted. (Speculative fiction. 12 & up)