Middle school student Peter’s parents were expecting their first natural child, an event prompting them to reveal for the first time that he was adopted. An artistic, sensitive boy, his pragmatic parents never understood why he’d rather create art than play football, and their response to his carefully crafted marionettes and play had such a disappointing response that, blinded by frustration, anger and grief, he ran out on to the street one wet and rainy night. He was killed instantly.
Waking up in a pool of bright white light, Peter is told he had twenty-four hours to pick a time and rewind his life up until his death – if he changes the past, maybe he can avoid dying again. But can Peter pick the right moment, and can he work out in time what needs to be different?
This is an interesting novel about what ifs, family friction (the usual disappointments of adolescence rather than the frequently represented outright abuses), the role of communication, and the advantages of reframing situations – seeing them differently in order to experience them differently.
That all sounds quite dull, but the brilliance of Sleator is his unique view. Peter is engaging, entertaining, and startlingly oblivious to the needs and sensibilities of other people. His efforts to prevent his death become increasingly more insightful about cause and effect, specifically the impact that changing his behaviour and (consequently) his thinking about the needs and world views of others, has on their emotions and reactions to him.
I've enjoyed other of Sleator's works more, primarily those aimed at older readers (like The Green Futures of Tycho, The Boy Who Reversed Himself, The House of Stairs and Others See Us) , but I think that this is great for its target audience and an enjoyable read on its own merits. It may even have an effect on young adolescents who - and I was certainly no exception - tend to forget that the world exists apart from them! - Alex