Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Review: The Boy from Tomorrow by Camille DeAngelis

The Boy from Tomorrow
by Camille DeAngelis

Available as: hardcover, Kindle edition
Pages: 268
Publisher: Amberjack Publishing
Publication date: May 8, 2018
Suggested tags: middle grade, paranormal, spiritualism

From Goodreads:
"Josie and Alec both live at 444 Sparrow Street. They sleep in the same room, but they’ve never laid eyes on each other. They are twelve years old but a hundred years apart.

The children meet through a handpainted spirit board—Josie in 1915, Alec in 2015—and form a friendship across the century that separates them. But a chain of events leave Josie and her little sister Cass trapped in the house and afraid for their safety, and Alec must find out what’s going to happen to them. Can he help them change their future when it’s already past?

The Boy from Tomorrow is a tribute to classic English fantasy novels like Tom’s Midnight Garden and A Traveller in Time. Through their impossible friendship, Alec and Josie learn that life can offer only what they ask of it.

The Boy from Tomorrow would have easily been one of my favorite books when I was in the "middle grade" age category. In my tweens, I was reeeeally into ghosts and death and supernatural occurrences and spiritualism. (I'm not sure I knew the term "spiritualism" then, but I knew of Ouija boards and spirit photography and all that awesome morbid Victorian stuff.) I'm still pretty into that stuff now as a 30-something (oh god when did I become an adult how did this happen), so I'm about to rave about this book.

Summary: Alec in the present (-ish, 2015) discovers that he can communicate through a "talking board" (aka: a Ouija board) with "spirits" in his house. Meanwhile, in 1915, Josie and her little sister Cass are communicating with a "spirit" through a talking board in their house too. When they discover that nobody is a ghost and they are actually somehow communicating across time, they chat through the board every chance they get, and Alec and Josie become good friends. But Josie's cruel mother is a spirit medium, someone who supposedly can talk to the dead, and she wants to use Alec's knowledge of the future for her own purposes. They find another way to communicate with each other, and while they love hearing about technology and books and songs from the future, Alec has some other information he's not sure he should share... like the fact that there's a child-sized headstone in the local cemetery with their last name on it. While Alec is trying to decide if he should tell what he knows, Josie is trying to decide if she wants to know ahead of time what will happen to her and her family.

What I liked: This was a great book in so many ways. The story is strong and deals with a lot of complicated time-travel-like issues without dumbing them down. For example, Alec starts finding letters and objects that have been left for him in the house... so Josie must have left them... but when he tells her about it, she hasn't done it yet... so now Josie knows she will leave them, but how, and when, and where...? It had my head spinning (in a really good way) at a lot of points, trying to figure out the mysteries of reaching across time with them. And poor Josie, trying to decide if she wants to know whose headstone is in the graveyard, and what will happen to her in the future, and the dates when people she knows will die... All of this information is at Alec's fingertips through Google, but should he share, and does Josie want to know? Ugh. Such a tough situation for both of them. I really felt for them, which I think shows that this book handled that really well.

Another thing I liked? ALL THE SPIRITUALISM GOODNESS. This is the first middle grade book I've read that deals with spiritualism but now I'm on the hunt for moooore. Talking boards? Automatic writing? Postmortem photography?? The age of spiritualism was weird and awesome.

There's also some tough situations that were handled quite well, I thought. Alec's parents are recently divorced, and he and his mom are both still struggling with a lot of the emotions that go along with that. Josie and Cass's mother is cruel to the point of being abusive towards them - both physically and emotionally - especially towards Cass. Some of those scenes were hard for me to read, but again, I think that shows that the author did a good job with them. Josie begins to realize that it's her responsibility to keep herself and her sister safe, which means she has to make some very adult decisions toward the end of the book.

What I didn't: The only thing I'm wondering is if the very end of the book is a little bit much for middle grade readers? If I was my tween self reading this, would I have wanted to read about the characters in their 20s and 30s and beyond, seeing what happens to them as adults? I don't know. I can't decide. As an adult now, it was interesting to see where they all ended up, but I felt like maaaybe the peek that far into the future wasn't really needed. We are told earlier in the book what will happen to both Josie and Cass, and I think I would have been satisfied with that. (SPOILER - highlight to read: Alec finds out that Josie is going to be a reporter, and Cass is going to be a famous actress. So we know they don't die young, and they seem to end up with careers that suit them. Yay!) Did I need to know in detail what will happen to them at a few different stages of their adult lives, reading about it scene by scene? Mmm, *shrug*, I feel like I could have done without it. I did really like seeing a peek into Alec's future though. (SPOILER - highlight to read: Where he follows the letter to another house and meets Cass's great-granddaughter?? And it's implied that he maybe likes Josie and hasn't met the right girl in his own time that can compare with Josie yet, but suddenly here's this girl in the present who's related to Josie that he seems to really hit it off with?? *sigh*... Maybe it's a little over the top, but it worked for me. Got me right in the feels.)

Another very small nitpick of mine is that some of the transitions from one scene to another were a bit abrupt and awkward, so I had to read back and little to figure out what had just happened. Like, one minute we're walking down the street with Alec and his friend Danny, and then all of a sudden Alec is talking to Josie. Oh, ok, I guess Alec and Danny made it back to their houses and Alec went up to his room and is talking to Josie... gotcha. Obviously that's not a big deal, and I don't expect the author to spell all that out for readers step-by-step in detail (cuz that's boring as heck and I don't want to read all that anyway). But I could have used a transitional something, like those little symbols in between paragraphs like * * * that show things have jumped ahead, or even one-liner like "Later when Alec got home," or something. Also it's worth noting that I read an ARC so this could be completely resolved in the final version.

TL;DR: As a tween, this would have been on my birthday wishlist SO FAST. As an adult, I still loved it! It's a really well done story of friends communicating across a century, sharing their everyday lives and some really tough things too, with a lot of interesting spiritualism info included.

Overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars

{ Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with a review copy. My reviews are honest and my opinions are my own; your reading experience may vary, so give it a read and see what you think. :) }

{ Follow Camille DeAngelis }


  1. Thanks for the review! I hadn't heard of this one before.

    1. A very belated thank you for reading! I found this one on NetGalley and thought it sounded like just my kind of book. I love when that turns out to be true!!