Michele’s life is turned upside down when tragedy forces her to leave her southern California home and move in with her blue-blooded grandparents she has never met in New York City. While struggling to fit in to her radically different new life, she explores her new bedroom–the bedroom of all the Windsor girls before her. There she finds the journal of her ancestor Clara, and reading the journal sends her back in time to the Windsor Manor in 1910. There, Michele meets Philip Walker, the handsome young man she has been dreaming about her entire life. They fall desperately in love, and Michele must figure out how to adjust to her new life in 2010 and new love in 1910, all while not understanding or being able to control her time traveling.
This type of book–Young Adult Romance with star-crossed lovers separated by Time (note the capital T) is not my usual choice, but I was picking some books that had been on my Goodreads list for a long time, and this one was randomly selected. And honestly, it didn’t sound so bad. A time-traveling teenager who suffered tragedy and is rescued by falling in love with a boy who lived almost an entire century before she did. Seemed like a good concept–until you find out that when Michele travels to the past, she shows up as a some sort of “ghost” that only her ancestor and the mysterious Philip can see. That was just weird. Seems like time-traveling would be all sorts of boring if no one can see you. Michele had no control over her time-traveling, discovering random objects that would take her back to equally random days and times. It didn’t quite make sense to me. She had some cool experiences, but no one else could see her except one ancestor at a time. When she reappeared at a later time, like the 1920’s, the Windsor girls who had seen her previously couldn’t see her any more, but Philip still could. That whole concept bothered me. Also, while I liked Michele and was somewhat emotionally invested in her life, none of the other characters in the story were really developed, with the possible exception of Philip. We never learn much about Michele’s grandparents Walter and Dorothy, her 2010-best-friend Cassie, or Ben the boy vying for her attention. I feel like all of them had stories to tell, ESPECIALLY the grandparents, and we don’t learn much about them.
I did like the historical aspects of this book. I could feel Michele’s excitement as she observed the way the city, Central Park, and even Windsor Manor changed every time she visited (no pun intended). I especially appreciated the discussion of Jazz, Ragtime, and Big Band music, being a musician that appreciates where American music came from. In the book, Michele would write song lyrics and her love Philip would set them to music. If you visit the author’s website, alexandramonir.com, you can hear her recordings of the original songs she wrote for the book. I haven’t been able to listen to them yet, but I do love that idea.
And now, for a MAJOR SPOILER type rant. Seriously, BIG SPOILERS ahead. I am going to give away the ending of the novel. I just have to complain about it. So if you don’t want to know, STOP READING NOW.
OK, you were warned. Michele’s final trip (in this book) to the past takes place in 1944 when America is at war. She has cut off ties with Philip, wanting him to be able to move on and have a life since she can find no logical way to be with him, her being a GHOST in his present-day. Michele has been searching Philip Walker, thinking such a wonderful music composer should have a history she can find on Google. When Michele gets to 1944, she attends a war-benefit concert where her relative Lily performs with piano legend Phoenix Warren. To her shock, Michele discovers Phoenix is in fact Philip Walker, who changed his name and started a new life for himself. He speaks with Michele and tells her he never stopped loving her, but true to his word he moved on and married someone else. Michele goes back to 2010 devastated, even though she understands. This was a very moving moment in the story, that almost brought a tear to my eye, despite my issues with Michele’s ghostliness. A tragic ending to a beautiful romance. Or, it would have been. Until Michele goes to school the next day, and who walks in to her U.S. History class but new kid Philip Walker. I believe my reaction was something like “You have GOT to be kidding me!” Way to ruin such a bittersweet, emotional ending. Was I pulling for Michele and Philip to get together? Of course. It was written in such a way that you had to be. But did I want some cheesy pseudo-happy ending where Michele gets a second chance with a “Philip Walker” who probably isn’t anything like the Philip from the past? Lame. I wish Monir would have ended the story about 3 pages sooner.
I don’t know if I’ll bother with the next book or not. It’s pretty easy to guess that Michele is going to go talk to this “new” Philip, he won’t have any idea who she is, she’ll be heartbroken (again), maybe he’ll even end up being an jerk for awhile before they fall for each other and realize their destiny. Maybe I’ll eventually read the next book and be pleasantly surprised, and it will be different and original. Maybe I’ll never know :oP