By Ekta R. Garg
September 26, 2018
Genre: Middle grade science fiction
Release date: May 8, 2018
Rated: Bordering on Bookmark it! / 3.5 stars
A pair of 12-year-olds living a century apart in the same home form a friendship. When one of them gets in trouble, the other does everything possible to help despite the hundred-year gap that separates them. Author Camille DeAngelis charms readers with likable characters who share an endearing relationship in the lovely middle grade book The Boy from Tomorrow.
In 1915, Josie Clifford and her younger sister, Cass, live at 444 Sparrow Street in Edwardstown, New York, with their twice-widowed mother, Lavinia. Lavinia makes her living as a medium, even though Josie doesn’t believe her mother can really contact spirits. Josie knows better than to voice her opinion, however. Lavinia lashes out at the kids for the smallest of infractions, so Josie spends most of her time trying to keep Cass out of trouble. The one saving grace is their tutor, Emily, who loves the girls like younger sisters.
In 2015, Alec Frost and his mother have moved into 444 Sparrow Street. Alec’s parents have undergone a bitter divorce, and Alec struggles with the end of his parents’ marriage. Moving to the small town helps; since he was young, Alec has dreamed of leaving the concrete of the city and living in a neighborhood with mature trees. His new house offers him a respite from the city and the domestic troubles between his parents.
One of the most charming aspects of a new-old house for Alec is the possibility for discovery. He finds a Ouija board in a curio cabinet and shows it to his new friends, Danny and Harold. The boys decide to use the board and are shocked when they receive a response from someone who claims to be very much alive.
The board intrigues Alec, and he continues using it. He learns that the person sending him the messages is a 12-year-old girl named Josie who lives in 1915. Despite their hesitancy, the two form a deep friendship.
Josie finds solace in talking to Alec. Lavinia rules the house with an iron fist, and her demands on Josie and Cass make life almost unbearable. When Emily tries to intercede on the girls’ behalf, Lavinia dismisses her and turns her wrath full force on Josie and Cass. Josie shares her hardships with Alec, and he becomes determined to help her. But how do you help someone who lives a whole century before you do?
Author Camille DeAngelis allows for all the whimsy of the science fiction genre and works with panache inside the confines of her story. Alec and Josie come across as realistic characters who just happen to live 100 years apart, and DeAngelis gives them time and space to be surprised and wary of their newfound ability to communicate. That allowance makes their ensuing friendship so much sweeter, and readers will find themselves worrying about Josie and Cass while cheering Alec on in his quest to help them.
Some readers might question the simplistic approach DeAngelis takes to Alec’s life, but that very simplicity allows him to dissolve into the role of hero. DeAngelis juxtaposes Alec’s internal struggles with Josie’s external ones, a masterstroke that gives the book breathing space and an extra dose of reality. That dose makes it even easier to suspend disbelief when it comes to the way Josie and Alec talk to one another.
A few of the story elements might feel a little rushed, and the serendipity that ties into the title might make readers shake their heads. For the most part, however, DeAngelis has a winner of a novel on her hands. I believe The Boy from Tomorrow Borders on Bookmarking it!