In Just’s (Anjel, 2018, etc.) YA fantasy novel, a teenager’s seemingly boring birthday gift becomes a window to the past.
Sam Reed was expecting an iPhone for her 14th birthday—not an old, blank journal that her father found in the house that he’s restoring. She writes a throwaway entry, just to appease him, before tossing it aside. But when she opens the journal again later, there are additional passages, written in very elegant handwriting. The entries are for the same date as hers, but in the year 1914, not 2014, and they’re signed “Emma Rose Reed.” At first, Sam believes that her father is trying to play some kind of trick on her, so she sets up a webcam. But instead of catching her dad writing in the diary, she sees words spontaneously appear on its pages—as if an invisible person is composing them. Soon, Sam and her best friend, Hailey, begin exchanging messages with a mysterious girl from 100 years ago. After an unfortunate accident leaves Sam without a phone, she devises a way to make some quick cash—specifically, by having her friend from the past hide some 1914 stamps, so that Sam can recover them and sell them to collectors. But the plan may have unexpected and possibly deadly consequences. Later on, Sam figures out when her new acquaintance is destined to die. Author Just offers an intriguing speculative-fiction novel that features elements of time-travel tales. Overall, the teenage characters feel authentic to their age, whether they exist in the present or in the past. The story itself is paced well, but it lacks the emotional depth that’s necessary to really draw the reader into it. Even later in the novel, when multiple characters face potential mortal danger, the story never manages to make the characters’ feelings seem real. Also, the story spends a bit too much time on unnecessary subplots involving side characters, instead of deepening the characterizations of the main players.
An unevenly executed story of two girls who are separated by a century.