Alfred A. Knopf, 2008. 978-0-375-84363-1
Synopsis: Martin Conway doesn’t have the ideal life: his family is a mess, he doesn’t like school, and he would much rather spend his time in his basement bedroom on the computer than anything else. Then his Nana leaves him a radio when she dies, a radio that was sent to his grandfather in London during the 1940s. Through the radio, he is contacted by a boy named Jimmy, a boy who died during the London Blitz. He needs Martin’s help so that his soul and that of Jimmy’s father can be at rest, a task to which Martin reluctantly agrees. Jimmy transports Martin to 1940s London in his dreams, showing him real people and places that seem to be part of a larger dreamscape, but when he wakes have vanished. Part of him believes his dreams, part of him thinks he is just going crazy.
Why I picked it up: The title reminded me of a song of the same name by The Clash.
Why I finished it: The story weaves together science fiction and historical elements to tell the story, which isn’t necessarily unique, but the way the mystery unfolds keeps the reader guessing as to the significance of some seemingly insignificant things. Martin is like many 13-year-olds I know: they don’t like school, they are not doing well in their classes because of disinterest or boredom, and just want to be able to do what they want, have a say in their own life. Martin’s interest is piqued by the radio and, largely for scholastic purposes, is able to fit together a project that relates to science, history, and literature, though throughout much of the book he seems to muddle his way through whatever information he comes across. The narrative skips back and forth between reality and the ‘dream world’ Martin is being shown by Jimmy as Martin tries to fit together the pieces that will link the two together. Bloor does a wonderful job of contrasting the different relationships in the story with the overarching plot without overdoing either element, since this is part of what is driving the story forward. The historical element to the story made me want to do my own research about London during the German Blitz, even though this is gone over again and again in most world history courses.
Other related materials: Taken by Edward Bloor; Crusader by Edward Bloor; Story Time by Edward Bloor; Tangerine by Edward Bloor; A Plague Year by Edward Bloor; The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke; Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry; Under a War-Torn Sky by L.M. Elliott; Solder’s Heart by Gary Paulsen; Shadow Children series by Margaret Peterson Haddix; The Crispin: Cross of Lead by Avi; Don’t You Know There’s a War On? by Avi; Nothing But the Truth by Avi