BUT NOT FOREVER by Jan Von Schleh


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In this debut YA time-travel adventure, two identical-looking girls—one in 2015, one in 1895—switch places, and it’s a race against time to switch them back.

In 2015, Sonnet McKay just celebrated her 15th birthday with her twin brother, Drew. With their older sister, Julia, they’ve left their home in South Africa to visit their grandfather in Seattle, and they also connect with their cousins Leah and Adrienne Macadangdang. With a new Seattle friend, Rapp Loken, they start poking around Monte Cristo, Washington, a ghost town that was once prosperous in its gold-mining days. There, they decide to explore a decaying, spooky mansion. In an upstairs bedroom, Sonnet evades a prank by her cousins by hiding in a closet—where she’s swallowed up by darkness. Meanwhile, in 1895, Emma Sweetwine, who also just turned 15, is in her own closet when she, too, is taken away. It soon becomes clear that the girls have somehow traded timelines. There’s much to astonish Emma in 2015, not least Rapp, who looks just like her secret fiance back in the 19th century—Tor Loken, Rapp’s ancestor. Despite her confusion, she loves modern freedoms and the affectionate McKays, who are so unlike her harsh, critical stepmother, Rose Sweetwine. Sonnet, meanwhile, must suffer Rose’s treatment, but she finds an ally in Kerry, a warmhearted maid. In both timelines, the girls’ friends find help and hatch bold plans to switch them back, but it will require careful timing and courage. Sonnet discovers more about her own family and also gains new gratitude for every moment. In time-travel books, one of the pleasures is seeing someone from the past confronting modern inventions, and Von Schleh captures Emma’s confusion well. When Drew pockets his cellphone flashlight, for example, she fixes “on the dim light shining through the khaki material and expect[s] fire to engulf him.” Sonnet’s struggles with 19th-century clothing and expectations are also realistically drawn. Other nicely chosen details help make the story more vivid, as in a description of Emma’s closet, which is lined with “pink painted bead board.” Satisfying romance, a good comeuppance, and a plan that comes together all add up to a great read.

A time-travel story that entertains with distinct characters, well-observed details, and an exciting finish.

Page count: 236pp
Publisher: Manuscript
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15th, 2017


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