A Year Without Autumn, by Liz Kessler

Welcome to another Timeslip Tuesday, where today I review my 116th time travel book (the full list is up at the top of the blog). If you were ever to review a time travel book on a Tuesday, feel free to send me a link and I'll stick it on!

Book #116 is A Year Without Autumn, by Liz Kessler (published April, 2011 in the UK, in the US from Candlewick in October, 2011, ages 9-12, 304 pages).

Every year, 12-year old Jenni Green and her family (father, very pregnant mother, and little brother) have spend a week at their time-share at Riverside Village--and the best part, for Jenni, is that her best friend Autumn does the same. For a week, the girls can spend practically every waking moment together, Jenni falling in behind Autumn's adventurous schemes, as she always has done.

But then Jenni takes a trip up in the old elevator of the main building...and finds a stranger living in Autumn's condo. Travelling back down restores her to her own time...But when she takes a second trip up, she realizes that she's travelled a year into the future.

When she does track Autumn down, she's horrified. Gone is her bright, brave friend with her carefree family and plenty of money. Autumn's family has been hit by tragedy, and Autumn can't understand why Jenni is acting like she doesn't know what happened.

At her own home, she has a baby sister she's never met before, and her parent's marriage is beginning to unravel. And worst of all, she learns that the terrible accident that destroyed Autumn's family, and reverberated into her own, would never have happened if she hadn't taken that elevator ride....

When she returns to her own time, it is after the accident had already happened. So Jenni goes back to the elevator--to find out more about the future waiting for Autumn, and herself, and to try to fix things, so that that future will never happen.

The book, told in Jenni's first person present voice, begins in a chatty style, as the reader is filled in with the back story of the friendship between the two girls. Pleasant enough, but not immediately gripping. But when Jenni begins to travel in time, the suspense, the mystery, and the emotional intensity are ratcheted up a thousand-fold. The first-person present voice, which at first made this seem a light read, comes into its own beautifully as Jenni struggles with the dislocation of time travel, her horribly changed relationship with Autumn, and the terrible events that have transpired. It becomes a gripping page-turner, right to the very end.

This is a book for those interested in character, rather than action-packed adventure. Although there is a great deal of tension viz the time-travel side of things, and the excitement builds at the end (will Jenni be able to avert the tragedy she knows is about to happen????) the focus of the story is on the relationship between the two girls, and so there is a considerable amount of conversation and reflection (which is fine withe me!)

Highly recommended to middle school girls--Jenni's experiences, although magnified tremendously by her travels into the future and by the tragedy that hit Autumn's family, echo the common anxieties about maintaining the friendships and security of childhood while growing up and becoming an independent person. And it's a just plain old exciting story, well-imagined and well-told.

The copy I read was the advance readers copy of the US edition (thanks Anamaria for lending it to me!)--and I intended to read it with an eagle-eye to see if I could spot any Americanizations. Then I got caught up in the story, and stopped trying. So apart from an explicit statement that the book is set in America right at the end of the story (which I thought was unnecessary, and which made the brief mention of a thatched cottage odd), and, of course, the changes from "lift" to "elevator" and "Mum" to "Mom" that I assume were made) I didn't see any.

But still, I wish they had kept it the way it was in the UK edition. When I was a girl, way back when, I quite liked reading books set in England...I don't see why kids of today would be any different!

Other Timeslip Tuesday posts: Ms. Yingling looks at Alice in Time, by Penelope Bush (I want this one!)


  1. I think you're right about the localisation of the book. Introducing different places and cultures is important and shouldn't be marginalised.

    If I'm honest, I do prefer a more esoteric high fantasy or hard sci-fi locale, which doesn't really see a lot of localisation :)

  2. Oh, I've always thought traveling in an elevator should do more than go up and down...


  3. It may have something to do with the time of year, but this cover is speaking to me. :) It's prettyful and I like it!

    - Willow Locksley

  4. Yeah, that's what I was thinking too, A.S.F. It's almost a tad patronizing to Americanize books for our pandered-to youth...they should learn there are other countries out there at a young age, I think!

    Two elevator timetravels I had in a row, Sharry! If only I had planned in advanced, I could have made it Elevator Month....

    I like the cover too, Willow. In Australia, they went with a much bolder pallette, but I like the wistfulness (?) of this one better!


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