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I received an Advance Reader Copy of this book from the publisher in order to write this review.
When Max’s mother first disappears, his father assures him that she’s fine. The voicemail she left was kind of cryptic–helping a friend with a health thing?–but she said not to expect her to be in touch for a few days, so they shouldn’t be alarmed. Until they find her cell phone hidden in her bedroom.
In an attempt to keep the kids from worrying, Max’s grandma takes him and his sister up to a cabin by the lake where his mother spent her childhood summers. But the first night after Max goes to bed, something not exactly worrying but certainly confusing happens. He and his sister both wake up in a dream world–the lake, but somehow brighter and more exciting–where all the children who have ever visited the lake that particular week in August are playing together in what one girl calls the “collective now,” a reality where it is 1983 and 1995, and 2021 all at the same time. Once he’s gotten over his shock and begins making deep friendships with the other children, Max realizes that the dream world might be the answer to his problem. If he can find his mom in this reality, maybe he’ll figure out a way to find her in real life, too.
I’m kind of madly in love with this book. In some ways, it’s a quiet read, focused on heart-warming relationships. But the suspense of the missing mother and the mystery of the magical dreams add enough urgency to make it difficult to stop turning pages. And although the fantasy/sci-fi element runs into the usual unresolvable issues that crop up whenever someone travels back in time and befriends a parent, the mechanics of the time travel wasn’t really a concern for me–it’s not what the book is really about. I’d recommend this one to any middle grade reader who enjoys magical realism. It could also be a peaceful family read aloud at bedtime for upper elementary age kids.