Previously on Flashbook Friday:
Last week I reviewed Both Sides of Time by Caroline B. Cooney, a YA time-travel romance about a girl named Annie from 1995 who wants her boyfriend to be romantic. She falls back in time to 1895 and meets Strat, the son of a stereotypical Gilded Age tycoon, who is painfully prim and proper. They rub each other’s faces and fall in love. Their torrid romance upsets Strat’s intended fiancée Harriett, a wealthy, intelligent orphan who has everything going for her EXCEPT she’s SO PLAIN and everyone feels sorry for her. No, really, they mention her terrible plainness on multiple occasions as if she’s SO FREAKIN plain they can’t see any of her other traits. From here on out I’ll be using the name PLAIN instead of Harriett.
The discovery of a servant’s body triggers a murder mystery. SPOILERS FROM HERE ON OUT.
NO REALLY, TURN AWAY IF YOU DON’T WANNA KNOW.
Turns out it was Strat’s dad’s smarmy creep friend Mr. Rowwells, surprising nobody.
Annie goes back to 1995 when she thinks she’s been accused of murder without realizing everyone was pointing to the Irish maid. She comes back to 1895 again when she realizes this mistake, all is set right, but Annie feels guilty about stealing Strat from PLAIN so she goes back to 1995. This is where the sequel Out of Time picks up.
The rest of this post will contain spoilers, so if you’re deeply invested in this 20-year-old series and recently started reading it, you may want to stop here.
What I remember about this sequel is Annie goes back to the 1890s and finds that Strat’s father sent Strat to the loony bin for claiming Annie was from the future. This is weird because at the end of Both Side of Time all the womenfolk are asking Annie about the future. Then again, Strat’s dad was all “WOMENFOLK HAVE PUDDING FOR BRAINS!” in the last book so I can see where he’d hesitate to hear their corroboration of Strat’s story. PLAIN is packed off to a sanitarium where she is suffering from consumption (tuberculosis) and coughs up blood every time we see her. Guess what happens to PLAIN. No really, take a guess. Annie helps Strat escape and then falls back to the 90s just in time for the Macarena to become a thing.
I loved this book as much as I loved Both Sides of Time when I read it as a middle-schooler. Considering how things went last time I did a Reread, I predict I’m going to find more faults with this book than I did as a tween. I hope Strat and Annie aren’t as dull as they were in the last book. Will they cross Victorian first base (face-touching), second base (making kissy faces across the table), third base (a chaste kiss), and head straight to home (touching bare knees)?
Childhood Rating: 5 out of 5 bloody handkerchiefs
The book starts out by telling us Annie’s going to NYC for a field trip and the dress code is “fancy”, which means girls shouldn’t follow the “current trend” (in 1996) of wearing boxers over their jeans. Was this supposed to be a tongue-in-cheek critique of fashion at the time or did Queen Caroline really think this was a thing? Oh, the 90s, such a frightening time in fashion. So, Annie has an excuse to wear one of her nice dresses. What happened the last time Annie wore a dress too fancy for the occasion? She just happened to fall back to a time of fancy dress.
Add another entry to the “Reasons Why Annie Is the Worst” List because she uses her ex-boyfriend, Sean, for rides. Annie sometimes feels bad about this, which means there are other times where she doesn’t feel bad for blatantly using this guy, who is obviously in love with her, because she doesn’t have a car. She thinks it’s a shame he’s hot but has “no personality to go with it.” Pot, meet kettle. Sean even tells Annie not to look disgusted when he’s like “Seeya later!” and assures her he’s JUST coming to pick her up after school, not take her on a date. Oh, Sean…maybe let Annie find her own way home today, Buddy. She says she might stay in NYC, but her real mission is try to go back in time and find the Strattons at their NYC brownstone. Then she has this inner monologue about how she’s NOT going to go back in Time and ruin everyone’s lives even though that’s EXACTLY her goal. Annie is infuriating.
Meanwhile, in 1898, PLAIN is at a “cure cottage” in the Adirondacks. She and Strat affianced, and then she developed a Cough Trope. Consumption must have been the Victorian form of anorexia because PLAIN remembers how happy she was when she started getting flushed and shedding pounds when she first got The Cough. Then she hacked up a gallon of blood and was sent away for treatment. She wonders why Strat hasn’t responded to her letters, unaware that he’s locked up in an insane asylum for blathering on and on about his time traveling love, Annie. He spends his days with Katie, disfigured at birth (turns out to be a cleft palate and harelip), and Douglass, who is mute. They spend all of their time indoors, verbally and physically abused by Dr. Wilcott, who believes their afflictions are punishment from God. Strat has learned to obey his abusers in order to earn precious outdoor time.
Annie slips away from her school group and stumbles back through time, appearing right in front of Strat’s sister Devonny and his 1890s dudebro best friend Walker. Devonny quickly distracts Walk, thanking him for his aid in getting Strat into the asylum, giving Annie all the information she needs to understand the current situation. Annie cons her way into the Strattons’ apartment, and when Devonny finally returns she tells Annie to go to the asylum, prove she’s real, and bring Strat home since it’s all Annie’s fault in the first place. Annie goes for the gold medal for Horrible Person of the Year and thinks to herself “Why isn’t the maid packing any ball gowns? I came here for ball gowns, glamour, and romance! Eff this, I’m gonna go home. I didn’t sign up to rescue people.”
I kid you not. This is her thought process. Her supposed “true love” is in an asylum because she abandoned him and she doesn’t want to go save him because asylums aren’t glamorous enough? Schmidt, Devonny’s maid, tells Annie how she came to America from Germany by herself, so Annie should stop whining about going up the Hudson. Devonny instructs Annie to bring Strat to PLAIN so PLAIN can be cured by ~*~*~*LOVE*~*~*~. Devonny and Schmidt sneak Annie out early in the morning to avoid Walk, but unfortunately, Walk’s manservant lets him know about the unannounced visitor…
Walk sends Devonny off to California while he stalks Annie up the Hudson to Albany. Annie notices him before she disembarks and gives her luggage to a woman she met while on the steamboat, instructing her to tell Walk that Annie is being subdued in her stateroom. Walk falls for the story and accompanies the woman aboard the boat while Annie slips off and hops a train to the asylum. Walk enters the stateroom, registers Annie is not there, and is promptly chloroformed. Not gonna lie, that part was pretty awesome.
After being denied a room at a hotel because she is an unaccompanied female, Annie manages to boss her way into a horse-drawn carriage bound for the asylum. She charms the pants off Dr. Wilmott while posing as Devonny and has Strat brought to her. A telegram arrives from Walk but Annie distracts Dr. Wilmott from reading it, and she and Strat knock him out with a lamp. They escape out a window back to the carriage and take off to Saranac. Walk and Dr. Wilmott contact each other and alert the police, who are able to intercept the carriage. Annie and Strat take off, promptly crash the carriage, and start a long slog to Saranac on foot. A local farming couple takes Strat and Annie in, allowing them to spent the night in front of a fire. Annie tells Strat how his mother and Devonny tried to contact him in vain, and clues him in to PLAIN’s circumstances. The next morning they head out to PLAIN’s sanitarium, even though Annie is hesitant to reunite the pair.
Annie and Strat reach the sanitarium in time for PLAIN to die in Strat’s arms. Strat tells Annie he loves her, but she must return to her time. He has no plans to return to his family after his father’s betrayal, and wants to go to Egypt and excavate tombs. Um, pretty sure you need a degree for that, even in the Victorian Era, Strat. They exchange “I love yous” and part, right in time for Annie, who has been mistaken for a servant, to be summoned to help Dr. Wilmott and Walk to a guest room. They strap her into a carriage and Walk takes off with her, laughing maniacally that she and Strat will be locked up together in the asylum. Then Charlie, PLAIN’s friend who had a crush on her, somehow manages to shoot and kill Walk with his rifle from afar. Annie impressively falls back through time and place, landing back home in Connecticut at the ruins of the Stratton mansion. Strat busts Katie and Douglass out of the asylum and they head off to Egypt together, masquerading as siblings. Thus ends this installment of the Time Travelers Quartet.
Annie remained insufferable throughout, pitching a fit after PLAIN’s death because she doesn’t like getting the servant treatment. Funny how badly Annie wanted to go back to the 1890s because she thought it was glamorous, sophisticated, and proper. “The good old days” are only good when you’re privileged, and Annie never bothered to think of that because she’s a superficial twit. Your true love’s childhood friend and current fiancée died in his arms seconds ago and you have the gall to complain because someone asked you to carry a bag? I’m surprised Strat didn’t tell her to go the hell away at that point.
At least Strat matured a bit in this book, finally appreciating PLAIN and admitting he does love her, perhaps not as lustily as he loves Annie, but enough to rush to her side after he’s been busted out of the loony bin. He feels badly about not standing up for Katie and Douglass in the asylum and makes sure to go back for them before escaping America for good. All Annie can worry about is how pampered she’s going to be and how many fancy dresses she’s going to wear. I guess this makes sense in the snippets we see of Annie’s family back in 1996. Annie’s mom fled to Tokyo on business and her dad is still carrying on his affair with his coworker. Papa Lockwood doesn’t even think of popping home to check on his kids until his mistress dumps him when he flat-out tells her he has no plans to divorce, but he wants to keep seeing her on the side. His first thought when he sees that Annie isn’t around isn’t “Where the hell is my teenage daughter?” but “Who’s going to do my laundry for me if the womenfolk aren’t around?” Why does Mr. Stratton’s view of women shock Annie when this shining example of male chauvinism raised her?
I’m not sure why I thought this book was romantic because Annie and Strat are only physically together for like two chapters, and the rest of the time, they’re pining for each other. I guess when you’re eleven, hopped up on brand new hormones, and have no idea how love really works, the mere idea of crushing on someone is overwhelmingly romantic. These books were obviously not written for adults so maybe I’m being too harsh. I did love this series at one point in my life. I loved them so fervently I searched for years for another time travel romance to match my memories of Annie and Strat’s romance. It would have been nice to have a less horrible protagonist to look back on.
Adulthood rating: 3 out of 5 rags soaked in ether