Life in scenic but soggy Wellcome Valley is so dull that figuring out what to do during midterm break poses a major challenge until Scarlett White climbs on Eddie’s school bus and starts to unravel his world.
An infant when his scientist single mother died in a car crash, Eddie lives with his artist grandmother, loving but unstable, and hangs out with his best friend, Angus. Like the valley, home and school are predictably boring. Mr. Cornish, their passionately opinionated English teacher, livens things up when he assigns Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein, making it an object lesson on hubris and abuses of power. As their friendship grows, Scarlett asks Eddie probing questions about his mother’s death yet is stubbornly secretive about herself. Smitten and intrigued, Eddie contrives to run into her outside school and discovers her spying on Mr. Cornish. Following her, Eddie witnesses a horrific murder that may be tied to his own parentage, then abruptly finds himself back on the school bus with Angus the day they met Scarlett—except this time she doesn’t get on the school bus, and only Eddie remembers she existed. Eddie’s voice is likable, smart without being snarky or florid.
At once a classic time-travel narrative and resonant fable about the price to be paid when we alter our world simply because we can, this smart, satisfying eco–techno-thriller with heart transcends genre. (Science fiction. 12-18)