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24 HOURS by Margaret Mahy

24 HOURS

By Margaret Mahy

Age Range: 14 & up

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2000
ISBN: 0-689-83884-0
Publisher: McElderry

It’s 5:10 on a Friday afternoon and Ellis, 17, has just come home after graduating from prep school. He’s walking through the streets reacquainting himself with his hometown and dreaming about the adventures he’ll have at university the following year when he runs into an old acquaintance who is about to launch him into the strangest and most eventful 24 hours of his life. Jackie Cattle, a few years older and a shady character, convinces Ellis to drive him to a party in a wealthy suburb, and as they crash the party, Ellis wonders what Jackie is up to. Jackie, true to his character, causes trouble at the party and eventually they leave, now joined by Ursa, Jackie’s sometime-girlfriend, and Leona, Ursa’s sister. They all head back to a rundown motel—the Land-of-Smiles—where the two girls, Jackie, and several others, including a 12-year-old and a baby, live in an arrangement that’s somewhere between a seedy commune and squatters’ digs. Ellis, the product of a conventional upbringing, has never seen anything like this living situation, and, while shocked and intrigued by the independence of its inhabitants, he’s glad he has a solid middle-class home to return to. Somewhere along the way, in the space of a few hours, Ellis has fallen head over heels in love with Leona and become embroiled in the intrigues of the Land-of-Smiles. By Saturday night, a mere 24 hours later, Ellis has been dead drunk, has careened through the streets in a car chase, has rescued a baby who has been kidnapped, and has realized that Leona is not destined to be the love of his life. In other words, his desire for a life-changing adventure has been amply met. Mahy wonderfully captures the voice of an adolescent in the character of Ellis, managing somehow to make what could have been an awful story into a work of art. Beautifully written, this is a novel that pulls one into its orbit from the very first page. (Fiction. YA)