A century apart, two preteens magically swap places and tackle an unsolved mystery: the theft of a painting by impressionist Mary Cassatt from a Newport, Rhode Island, mansion.
For Maggie, niece of the coal tycoon who built The Elms, it’s 1905. Twenty-first-century Hannah lives at The Elms, now a museum, with her caretaker father. She’s fascinated by the Gilded Age and the mystery of how Maggie’s portrait was stolen before it could be unveiled. When each suffers a fall, they discover they’ve switched bodies and can talk to each other through the mirror. Hannah, who knows the house and its history, seizes this chance to investigate the art heist. Learning of her portrait’s theft—due to occur that night—Maggie wants to help. While Hannah recruits Jonah, the kitchen boy who’ll be accused of the theft, Maggie studies Hannah’s iPhone and tries to learn soccer on the fly. Narrating alternate chapters, the girls discover that finding the culprit fails to return each to her time. First-person, present-tense narration works against the historical setting, and Hannah’s loud voice, crammed with pop-culture references to the Kardashians, hashtags, and port-a-potties, overwhelms any Gilded Age ambiance. Played for laughs, the 1905 denizens’ perplexity at her jargon soon palls. Though less tiresome, Maggie’s no more believable. Physical descriptions of characters are few, and race is never mentioned, but characters appear white, like The Elms’ historical occupants, Maggie’s family. Girl power and women’s progress toward equality are celebrated mainly in internal narration.
The disappointing triumph of superficial style over substance. (authors’ notes, bibliography) (Fantasy. 9-12)