Title: Locked in Time


Locked in Time by Lois Duncan, copyright 1985

Nore has an “uncanny” sense of time. She doesn’t need an alarm clock to wake her in the morning, and always knows what time it is. (Of course, this is prior to cell phones, which might make this point moot. On the other hand, it could come in handy if you just know when you wake up in the morning exactly what time it is without a clock around. . .)

Her father has just gotten remarried, much to Nore’s surprise. Her father and mother loved each other very much until her mother died just the year before. Suddenly her father, a somewhat famous writer, is in love with this woman who is so unlike Nore’s mother, and lives in the bayou in Louisiana on an old plantation. Nore immediately perceives that Lisette, her new step-mother, does not like her and sees her as threat. A threat to what? That’s the question. And then there is Nore’s new step-siblings, Gabe (who is quite handsome in a teenage sort of way) and Josie, who is 13 and in “that awkward stage”. It is Josie who says things that don’t always make sense. . . like about the circus fire in 1941 and that she was there. How could she have been there? Why has Nore found 100-year-old pictures of people who looked exactly like Lisette, Josie and Gabe? Not just similar, but exactly. Who are they, really?

I loved this book as a young teen precisely because of the “time” factor. The first time I read this book, I had to know the answers. In addition, I was fascinateds by the idea of immortality. Because I had not yet quite discovered vampire novels, this was a good book that bridged that gap between realistic fiction, time travel, and vampiric immortals in fiction.

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Title: The Other Side of Dark


The Other Side of Dark by Joan Lowery Nixon (Copyright 1986)

I read this book around 1988 at age 13. It is about a girl who wakes up one to discover that she isn’t 13 anymore, but now age 17. She was in a coma for four years. She also finds out that her mother was killed in the same home robbery attack that Stacy was injured in. Even before she leaves the hospital she’s lived in for four years, she finds that the media is completely interested in her story, calling her “Sleeping Beauty”. (Although, Stacy points out that this is incorrect – when Sleeping Beauty goes to sleep, everyone else in the castle does, too, so they really don’t lose out on anything.) For her, she went into her come before really maturing, and in four years time, suddenly lots of makeup, shrunken jeans (remember those days?), and punk styles are in. Her best friend from growing up comes around to introduce Stacy to what being a teen is all about. Stacy has no idea. She’s still just getting used to how different she looks.

If this story took place now, not only would the media be getting pictures of her, etc, but the other teens and young adults at the party she goes to would be taking pictures of her on their phones, and chatting about her via text and IM. This would have made things even worse, as the murderer is still around and he knows that Stacy might be able to remember who was there in their house that spring day.

Most of the plot of the story is about who did it – who killed Stacy’s mother and robbed Stacy of four vital years of her life. She’s very angry throughout the book. Hey, I would be, too! The killer is Jarrod Tucker. At the party, he is the one who gets her drunk. Stacy has no idea there is vodka in her pop, and it naive enough not to suspect. When I first read this book, I had more dire suspicions – perhaps Jarrod would spike her pop with some kind of poison like cyanide. In the end, when Stacy has a gun pointed at Jarrod, she does not shoot him. She had previously thought that if she had the chance to do so, she would take it, but then Jarrod tells her what her mother had told him: “It’s all right. It’s all right.” This is what spoke to Stacy: yes, he’s right, that’s what her mother would have said. Stacy didn’t have it in her any more to killed him. She says, “I didn’t really have a choice. Jarrod’s life doesn’t belong to me.”

Things I really noticed during my re-read this week:
Mid ‘80s punk: There is mention of a punk rocker “Glory Beans”. Real? I think not. I never heard of her then, and if you Google the name, you get a YouTube video with some people doing some thing Glory brand beans. I have mixed feelings about using fake musicians versus real people in fiction. Both have their negatives and positives .

Shrunken jeans: I noticed this during my youth when originally reading it, but tight jeans were really still in then, too. However, 1988/89 is when ripped jeans were also in – so tight ripped jeans. Really lovely. I never ripped my jeans on purpose, but when they ripped from regular wear and tear, that was fine with me.

The name Stacy: That is a name of my generation. I haven’t seen so much of this name in kids born in the last 18 years or so, at least. One of the Babysitter’s Club girls is named Stacy, but these books started coming out around the time this book was released, so generation-wise, it makes sense.

The name Jan: This is my middle name, so I always thought that was neat. However, even in 1988 I thought this name was untrue for a teenager at the time. I thought it was more of a name for my mom’s generation. Lately I have noticed that a lot kids are getting more old fashioned names that go back to my grandma’s generation, such as Evelyn.

Donna: Stacy’s sister is about 21, is married and expecting a baby. We hear that she has promised their dad that she will still graduate from college. It seemed to me even then that the name Donna was very old-fashioned. I equated it to The Donna Reed Show, which we’d seen on Nick at Nite, and to a book from the early 60s that my mom had (and I will discuss here on another date) – Donna Parker at Cherrydale. We never learn what the sex of the baby is that Donna (Stacy’s sister) is carrying. I always felt gypped out of never knowing what happened. I always wanted to know if the baby was a girl or a boy.

The Pasta Salad: Donna makes Stacy a chicken pasta salad. Stacy doesn’t eat it because she has no clue as to what it is. Donna makes a comment that nobody knew what they were until recently, and she’d forgotten that Stacy knew nothing of the previous four years. I always thought this was funny, because I rarely ate pasta salads either, back then. First, I did not like cold pasta. Second, they often had chicken, and back then, I hated cold chicken. Third, there was usually some kind of dressing on it, and I hated the taste of the dressing. The entire combination seemed revolting.

Jeff: He is the narcotics officer working under cover at the high school. He helps protect Stacy, and seems as if he’s making a move to be become Stacy’s boyfriend. Stacy doesn’t know what to think. He’s very evasive at times when it comes to questions about himself. It is not until the very end of the book when he takes the gun out of Stacy’s hand that he tells her the truth. It also makes for a somewhat satisfying ending when he tells Stacy he will wait for her – because he doesn’t want to be just her “first love”, but the “real thing.”

I just realized that my paperback copy of this book, like other paperbacks from the 80s, have a page listed other books by the author along with a little order form. Each paperback title is listed under $3 each. I do not believe that book companies do this anymore. People can just go online to Amazon or Barnes & Noble, find the author, read reviews, and order what they want. I don’t do that because I try the library first. I think books nowadays still have lists of other books, but not the ordering forms.

Title: The Dollhouse Murders

(Cover of my signed copy in 1986. It was signed inside on the front cover.)

The Dollhouse Murders
by Betty Ren Wright was copyrighted in 1983. I didn’t read it until 1986 at age 11. I don’t know if I would have ever read it, except for the fact that I had a chance to meet Ms. Wright at the author fair at the Lake Geneva Public Library (Wisconsin) on November 15, 1986. I believe that my mom bought me the book there, and then I took it into the room where the various authors were waiting to sign their books for their adoring readers. At that point in time, I was sure that I was going to be a Writer when I grew up. My mom asked Ms. Wright to tell me that I needed to have another profession, too, so I could earn money and have health insurance as an adult. At the time, I said, no, I was just going to write and become famous. (I know it’s still not too late. I can continue working at this. . . )

Ms. Wright was a very kind and gracious woman. I felt more shy than usual in her presence. She was an Author! I couldn’t believe that Authors were really very real people. It was quite intimidating for me, but she was very nice (which made me think all Author as nice people, which didn’t seem to be the case the next year when I met a different Author – a YA writer – who seemed very put out – but that will be another entry in the future). After meeting her, and reading Dollhouse Murders, I proceeded to borrow the rest of her juvenile/pre-teen books from the library, and to read her new books as the came out even as I got older. I loved her style.

On to the actual book —
Amy finds an old dollhouse in the attic of her aunt’s house. It looks completely like her aunt’s house, too, inside and outside. Lots of strange thing happen, such as the dolls moving on their own (and this gave me a taste for creepy doll stories – in high school I moved on to Ruby Jean Jensen horror paperbacks, particularly her book Baby Doll.) The back cover blurb says, “Amy knows the dolls are trying to tell her something – but she’s terrified to find out what.” I had to read to find out what, of course.

The books begins with Amy with her best friend Ellen, and they are out in public trying to look for Louann, Amy’s younger sister who is larger than she is but Amy has to take care of because she is mentally retarded. She resents having to take care of her all the time (which some things later in this book resolve – things with their mother, mostly), and runs away to her aunt’s house. Her aunt is great, and offers to let her stay there a little while, to get away, even offers to host Amy and Ellen’s joint sleepover birthday party. However, her aunt gets angry and upset when she finds that the dollhouse (which was hers when she was younger) has been played with, and the dolls, who represent her aunt’s murdered grandparents, are in the positions they were in when they (the grandparents) died. She does not believe Amy when Amy says that she is not the one moving the dolls. It is finally when Louann witnesses it and corroborates the story that Aunt Clare finally believes. They figure out that the dolls/the grandma’s spirit is trying to show them where to find the answers to what happened all those years ago. The grandma doll leads them to the house’s library room – and a letter is found in a book. It turned out that Aunt Clare thought that she was responsible for the death of her grandparents – that her boyfriend at the time killed them. It turned out it wasn’t him at all. Aunt Clare starts looking very young again, and stops beating herself up over it.

It was a very satisfying read. I had already liked ghost stories, but this book I would recommend easily to 8 to 12 year olds. I really, really liked the author, too, as a person. It is important for kids and teens to actually meet the author. It’s magical . . .