Book review: A Year without Autumn by Liz Kessler

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Is the future a place any of us would really want to visit - and if we didn’t like what we saw there, could we change it?

Liz Kessler, author of the bewitching children’s make-believe series Emily Windsnap and Philippa Fisher, works a new and much more thought-provoking brand of magic in a time-slip novel that explores big themes like friendships and families, life and death, loyalty and self-belief.

It’s a bold move and one that has paid off because A Year without Autumn, the gripping tale of a 12-year-old girl caught up in a Back to the Future style adventure, is sophisticated and humane without losing sight of its young audience.

Jenni Green, her brother Craig and their parents are a predictable kind of family; every year they stay at the same riverside timeshare apartment where they meet up with the same people and do pretty much the same things.

They all like everything to be in its rightful place and they do everything bang on time, which is ironic as Jenni is about to become caught up in a time travel drama that puts ‘time’ and familiarity totally out of joint.

The most anticipated part of the holiday for Jenni is sharing her days with best friend Autumn, the funniest, brightest and smartest girl in all the world. Where breezy Autumn goes, sunny Jenni follows, even if that takes her to places well out outside her comfort zone.

Both firmly believe that nothing and nobody could break their friendship...but that was before Jenni was mysteriously propelled exactly one year forward in time.

Life has passed her by and somehow she wasn’t there, but worst of all is the discovery that a terrible tragedy has torn apart her precious bonds with Autumn.

Now Jenni is trapped in a strange world that she doesn’t recognise, and Autumn, the one person who would normally help her to make sense of it, has turned into a broken, lifeless and unrecognisable girl.

Jenni is left with only one alternative – she must find her way back to the present and, in a race against time, try to change what lies ahead.

But first she’ll have to become a stronger, firmer, more confident and resilient person.

Kessler’s clever and compelling story combines an intriguing plot with real-life truisms like following your instincts, being true to yourself – however difficult that may be – and discovering your inner strengths.

Top-class reading for children aged nine and over.

(Orion, hardback, £9.99)