Title: Once Was a Time
Author: Leila Sales
Synopsis: In the war-ravaged England of 1940, Charlotte Bromley is sure of only one thing: Kitty McLaughlin is her best friend in the whole world. But when Charlotte’s scientist father makes an astonishing discovery that the Germans will covet for themselves, Charlotte is faced with an impossible choice between danger and safety. Should she remain with her friend or journey to another time and place? Her split-second decision has huge consequences, and when she finds herself alone in the world, unsure of Kitty’s fate, she knows that somehow, some way, she must find her way back to her friend. Written in the spirit of classic time-travel tales, this book is an imaginative and heartfelt tribute to the unbreakable ties of friendship.
Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!
I adore Lelia Sales’ writing, though last year I admit my disappoint when it came to Tonight the Streets Are Ours. However, when I heard she was writing a middle grade novel, I had high hopes, and even higher expectations. I loved this book! In fact, I loved it so much I read it in a day.
This is a novel about time travel and friendship. More particularly can a friendship transcend through time and still survive. When Lottie jumps through a portal during a critical moment in time, she is transported to 2013. She spends a lot of time blaming herself into believing that the Nazi’s had murdered her best friend Kitty, and father. Interestingly, however, beyond this premise, this book has more to do with how a time traveler adapts to a new environment.
Lottie struggles a lot in this novel in regards to who she thinks she is, and who she perhaps wants to become in the “future.” I felt for her in the story, because trying to feel apart of a world that isn’t your own, it’s awkward and uncomfortable. There’s so much loneliness and isolation in this book as well, and even when Lottie makes friends, it never feels comfortable or “right.” I loved the relationship that Lottie forms with Miss Timms, the town’s librarian, and anytime she discussed funding cuts, and budget issues, my heart sank (as a library worker anytime you hear those words your heart sinks). But I loved their friendship and I loved how genuine it was, especially since Miss Timms encourages Lottie to try and find herself through the library. I also loved Lottie’s desire to read the whole Children’s Collection — a girl of my own heart.
I wanted to smack Dakota and friends throughout this book. Especially anytime they would coarse Lottie into bullying Jake. I was so sad Lottie kept caving to the peer-pressure, but I also loved how much of a wonderful friendship she strikes up with Jake! He’s such a darling character, full of energy and life, and being a kid like Jake who was bullied, I felt for her a lot during the story. The latter half of the novel where they are together in the search for Kitty was priceless, and I loved his level of encouragement. The ending made me cry like a baby, because it’s just so bittersweet and wonderful.
Once Was A Time is just such an enchanting novel that will tug at your feelings and hang on for dear life. It’s emotional, thoughtful, and very much a book-lover’s book as well. If you can suspend your disbelief and enjoy the small science fiction aspects within the story, then you’ll find a lot to enjoy here. I can’t wait to re-read this one in the future!