The Boy from Tomorrow
By Camille DeAngelis
Alec Frost and Josie Clifford, along with her sister Cass, are best friends, but they have never seen each other in person. The girls live in the same house as Alec, but 100 years in the past. They all live at 444 Sparrow Street, but the girls are there in 1915 and Alec is in 2015. They communicate by using a spirit or talking board, which we today call a Ouija board. Josie’s mother is a psychic who conducts séances in her home.
The friendship develops over time and, as the kids get to know each other, Alec realizes that the girls might be in danger from their abusive mother.
The time travel aspect of this book was interesting because it was done in a completely new way. The kids didn’t step into a time machine or a portal or anything that’s been done before. They communicated with the talking board. Josie’s mother, Lavinia Clifford, is horrible to her children! When she discovers their communications with Alec, she uses it for her own gain, forcing Alec to tell her things about the future in exchange for communicating with Josie. Then, they find the phonograph and wax cylinders and are able to continue to communicate without the mother’s knowledge. Josie is also able to pass notes to Alec by hiding them places in the house where he might find them in the future. I thought that was really cool.
Cass has an odd doll named Mrs. Gubbins. One mystery of the novel is: who is she? How is it that she can communicate? Cass talks to the doll and the doll tells her things that no one the girl’s age can know. What happens to Mrs. Gubbins in Alec’s time? Does she communicate with him? We never really learn much about Mrs. Gubbins’ history, which was disappointing.
The girls are never allowed to leave their home. Their abusive mother keeps them out of school and inside all the time. She locks Cass in a cabinet as punishment, or locks the girls in their room. There are other incidents of cruelty that could be disturbing to young readers. These incidents are treated as part of the story and are essential to show that the girls are in danger in their own home. These things could bring up bad feelings in readers though. I would suggest maybe offering some resources at the end of the book for kids who may find themselves in similar situations.
Alec has made a couple friends in his new home and one, Danny, is very helpful to him. They conduct their own research into the history of the house, visiting the library and the local graveyard for answers. Alec is not sure if he wants to find the graves of his friends from 100 years before though.
Alec’s mother thinks he is having troubles due to her divorce and sends him to a counselor. When she eventually does learn the truth though, it’s surprising that she believes Alec. But, she does and she supports him, which is refreshing, especially after seeing how poorly the girls’ mother treats them.
I thought the main characters were all well developed. The book itself can be described as part mystery, part paranormal, part time travel, part historical fiction. I thoroughly enjoyed it and rate it as one of my top two books of 2018 so far. I did wish the ending had been a little different. I wanted Alec to be more eager to find out what happened and go visit the address. I wanted there to be a ton of letters telling him all about Josie’s life. I guess I was hoping that the book would not end. I wanted there to be more.
There is a good word of advice at the end that warns of the dangers of using Ouija boards. I was glad to see that. It’s not really something to play with and kids might be tempted after reading this novel.
Overall, I give this book my highest rating. You will love it.