The Clay Lion, by Amalie Jahn, for Timeslip Tuesday

The Clay Lion, by Amalie Jahn (BermLord, YA, 2013) is set in a present day world that is ours but with a twist--time travel is possible, though carefully regulated.  Each person gets one trip back in time, but because of the way time travel works, they can only revisit a point in their own past life, and they are not supposed to change anything in their timeline.

Brooke was a senior in high school when her brother died of lung disease.  A bit over a year later, stuck in a fog of depression, she decides that she will use her time travel ticket to go back and save him by keeping him from whatever it was that triggered his immune system to go haywire.   It doesn't work, so she tries a second time, with her mother's trip.  That doesn't work either, so she gets a black-market trip for a third try....which also fails to save her brother.

But in the process of visiting her past and her brother's life, and death, Brooke comes to terms with the fact that some things just have to happen, and the only thing to do is make her own life something her brother would approve of.   She has in fact made changes to her life and the relationships she retouched that will help her, and her family, move forward instead of being trapped in their sadness.

One such relationship was with a cute boy, Charlie, who she loved and who loved her back in life number 2.  But this love was bent out of kilter by the time travelling, and she thought she could never get it back.  Though this was a loss, she gained immensely from having travelled back in time, and was able to shape a present for herself that wasn't overshadowed by depression...in a world, of course, where Charlie still existed, even if they hadn't in fact met yet....

It wasn't until about two thirds of the way through the book that I started actively enjoying it.  If I hadn't needed a book for Timeslip Tuesday, I would have put it down after Past Visit 1 for two reasons.  The first is that the author's prose is often stilted; she has a habit of filling Brooke's narration with latinate vocabulary that seemed unnatural and contrived to me, like using "departed" instead of "left."  The other thing that made feel uninvested in the story was that I never shared Brooke's obsession with saving her brother. Of course I sympathized and felt bad, but it ruled her life (except for her love affair in Visit 2) and made her pretty one dimensional.  However, once she started accepting that she couldn't be her brother's savior, I warmed to her and was interested to watch her began to heal from a death that hadn't even happened yet in the timeline of Visit 3.

And now I'm a bit surprised to find that that I want to read the next three books in the series, to see other folks from this story using their own time travel experiences.  Will Brooke's experiences of having almost made things even worse have taught them anything?  Probably not....

Nb: most other readers found this a beautiful tear-jerker, and loved it.  It didn't make me teary at all, even though I usually sob with the best of them...


  1. For some reason the trope of going back in time to try to fix the present has always actively repelled me. I'm trying to analyze my brain right now to figure out exactly why, but I don't know. It just feels very wrong to me, wrong enough that I don't want to read about it. (Apparently I have strong moral principles regarding time travel. Should come in useful one day.)

    1. Indeed. The only ones where this really works for me are when people go back past their own lives to right old wrongs.

    2. Yes! Why is that okay but messing with your own timeline isn't? Maybe there's something fundamental about the fact that we don't get do-overs; this life is all about dealing with the consequences of your past choices, and you can't mess with that narrative certainty. Or something.

      I really like Connie Willis's take on it: the time-space continuum is resilient and does everything it can to prevent you from messing with it. I don't know why that's so reassuring, when it means we can't go back and kill Hitler, but it is somehow.

    3. My problem, quite frankly, is that when you are messing with your own time line the time travel just gets to be a total mess and my head hurts and my ability to suspend disbelief goes flying! So less a moral issue than a practical one, and so Connie Willis is soothing in that regard....


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