Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews



Tim O'Rourke
For ages 13 and up
Scholastic, 2015   ISBN: 978-0545829595

Soon after the death of her mother, when she was six, Charley started to have what she calls “flashes.” They are visions of sorts and in them she seems people who are about to die. Charley’s father thinks her flashes are seizures, which is what they look like when they are taking place, and she has been to six doctors, none of whom can explain what is happening to her. When Charley dared to confide in a girl at school, word soon got out and she was labelled a nutter and she was persecuted. Then she met a girl called Natalie who did not laugh at Charley. She believed her, and tried to help her deal with the flashes. In fact she was the only person who helped Charley.

Now Natalie is gone. She died when she fell on the railroad track and was hit by a train. Charley is understandably devastated at the loss of her best friend, and her grief is only made worse because her father does not seem to understand how she feels.

Then Charley has another flash and in this particularly vivid vision she sees a girl being dragged down a dirt road and onto the railroad tracks. She sees that the girl is wearing a necklace around her neck that says Kerry. The girl is called Kerry. The girl is pleading for her life, but it is clear that the man who has her is going to kill her. Charley can see and hear Kerry, and she can hear her killer’s voice too. She can hear trains. The only part of the picture that she cannot see is the face of the killer.

That night the police, including a young constable who has just joined the local police force, finds the body of a girl on the railroad tracks. In the early hours of the morning Charley, trying to find the place where the girl in her vision was attacked, meets the young detective constable, Tom. She finds out that a girl died on the tracks the night before and inadvertently she reveals the fact that she knows that the girl was called Kerry. Over breakfast Charley tells Tom about her vision and explains that she has had many such episodes over the years.

Tom does not know what to think of Charley’s revelation. On the one hand Charley knows things, but on the other what she is saying is surely not possible. He does know that he cannot tell his superiors about what he has learned. If he does they will think he is crazy and perhaps take him off the case.

Soon after telling Tom about her flashes, Charley’s father tells her that her mother, who committed suicide, also died on the railway tracks, just like Natalie and Kerry. Charley does not know what to think about this. What she does know is that Kerry was murdered, that her death was not an accident. Could it be that Natalie was also killed by the same person?

The more Tom finds out about Kerry’s murder from Charley, the more frustrated he gets because he cannot reveal the information he has to his bosses. Meanwhile, the police are accusing innocent people of being involved in Kerry’s murder and saying that she got drunk and just fell across the railroad tracks.

What makes the situation even more complicated is that Charley and Tom are attracted to one another. Under other circumstances maybe… but with this murder hanging over both of them, and the weirdness of Charley’s flashes, trying to get to know each other in a normal way is impossible.

Readers will quickly get wrapped up in Charley and Tom’s story. The voices of the two young people are so genuine, and we particularly find ourselves feeling deeply sorry for Charley who has been given a frightening ability that she does not want.