The Clearing, by Heather Davis (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010, YA, 215 pages)
Amy has left her home in Seattle to spend her senior year with her great-aunt up in the mountains. She's trying to leave behind her relationship with an abusive boy-friend, who wounded her in both body and spirit. But even though it's soothing to split kindling with Aunt Mae, it's hard to let down her guard and become friends with her new classmates...the only new friend Amy feels comfortable with is Henry, who lives in a farm inside a barrier of mist back in the woods.
Amy is trying to put her past behind, but Henry is reliving his. Every day for almost seventy years it has been the same small bit of a long ago summer--doing the same chores, eating the same cake, reading the same books. Safe inside the mist that came in answer to his most heartfelt prayer the night his life was shattered, Henry has kept his mother and grandfather safe. Because Henry's brother went off to fight in WW II, and Henry saw what happened when the telegram came from the army. He never wants it to happen again.
But now that Amy has passed through the mist, things are changing back in the past. She is a catalyst, threatening to shatter the peace that Henry has built. And then they fall in love...even thought they know that there is no time where they can be together.
Told from the alternate viewpoints of Amy and Henry, The Clearing is a poignant story about putting the past behind. Henry's part of the story--the monotony of his eternal summer day and its gradual dissolution--is particularly compelling. I found it fascinating to watch the reactions of Henry's mother and grandfather as they gradually become aware of their situation, and I recommend the book primarily on the strength and originality of Henry's story.
Amy's circumstances are much less magical, but (ironically) are slightly less convincing. Her characterization is less subtle, and her interactions with the other kids in her own time somehow felt forced and superficial. But on the other hand, since Amy's mind is full of both the past she's trying to get away from, and thoughts of Henry, this may well have been a deliberate choice on the author's part, actively reflecting Amy's own feelings toward the "real" world.
Timeslip-wise-- I truly enjoyed the central premise-- a farm frozen in time by the strength of one young man's desire to keep the future from happening. The pacing of the time travel elements was well done too--Amy's comprehension is neither too immediate, or too drawn out. It is an odd sort of time slip, in that years of that one day have passed for Henry...which may explain why Amy is able to bring things out of Henry's time to her own (although I still think this stretches the rules a bit). My one major disappointment with the timeslip element is with the way the ending is handled. I have no objection whatsoever to the conclusion Davis reaches, but the fallout of that conclusion is somewhat jarring.
In short: Fog Magic (anyone else read it?) meets Tuck Everlasting, for young adult readers (there's more than just hand holding...)
other reviews: Lost for Worlds, The Story Siren, and Presenting Lenore.