The Things We Miss, by Leah Stecher, for Timeslip Tuesday

This week's Timeslip Tuesday, The Things We MissThe Things We Miss, by Leah Stecher (middle grade, Bloomsbury, May 2024), gives a self-conscious girl a chance to coast through all the unpleasant-ness of seventh grade through the magic of time-slipping.  When J.P. finds a magical door in her old treehouse hideout, she goes through....and three miserable days of worried that her large body is being judged and that she's just wrong somehow pass while she is cocooned in peaceful-ness. 

She's exited to share her discovery with her best friend Kevin, who didn't even notice she was gone (her body went on doing its thing while she rested), and at first he's very intrigued....but the magic doesn't work on him.  And as J.P. starts skipping three days here and there more and more often, relying on him to catch her up (her body double doesn't pass on memories), he is less and less supportive, and urges her to skip less often.

And indeed, life is going on during J.P.'s missing days...good things, meaningful things, and not just horrible gym class.  Her friendship with Kevin is strained to a breaking point, because of how often she just isn't there for him.  Her grandfather is dying of cancer, and she's skipping through that too.  And when she realizes just what she has slept through, she knows she has to start facing life with no escape hatch, and try to mend all the lost spaces in her life as best she can.

It was hard for me to care all that much about J.P. at first, as she is very self-centered, and has trouble thinking outside her immediate concerns, mainly her poor body-image, but further into her story, her grandfather's decline.   But her situation is a very relatable one--escapism is often appealing.  And it's good to see her get some sense, and set out on the road to being a stronger, more present person.

It's a really interesting time-slip premise too--her body double fills in for her so well, and is in fact herself though she can't remember it.  It's basically time-slipping as periodic amnesia.  The treehouse door is never explained, although it makes sense in the story that it appeared for her because of her intense desire to have a respite from the negative rain inside her head.  

And in many respects, this is one that a fair number of middle school kids will really see themselves in, and quite possible learn from J.P.'s experiences that the things in life that have meaning make up for the miserable bits, and that being there for those you care about, even if it also comes with mean girl bullying and grief, is worth it.

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