Gail Cornwall | The Children’s Book Review | April 11, 2016
Written by Leila Sales
Age Range: 10 – 13 years
Hardcover: 272 pages
Publisher: Chronicle Books (April 5, 2016)
What to Expect: Fantasy, Friendship, Time Travel
In Once Was a Time, Leila Sales accomplishes a feat I’d thought impossible: she writes a gripping love story with no sex or even attraction, just the fierce loyalty and yearning we feel for friends so dear as to become part of us.
The book is marketed to tweens, but readers of any age will relate to the main character’s struggles with disappointment, loneliness, cliques, peer pressure, grief, kindness, cruelty, limitless possibility, and failing to be one’s best self. While original, the tale is also a universal one in that it addresses family in all its many permutations, from the one we’re born into to surrogate acquired along the way. The reader is left with an aching sadness over both relatives easily relinquished and others sorely missed.
The plot concerns time travel, yes, but more so the passage of time in a life well lived. Its historical setting is also subtle; one learns lessons about World War II, from rationing to blackouts, in a way that feels organic to the story rather than forced.
Though not without its faults, including a middle that drags and a bit of missing depth in situations that would cause most of us great distress (perhaps as an attempt to lighten things up for a younger audience), Once Was a Time is superb. Months after first reading the book, I find myself reflecting on its characters and outcomes.
If it gives me, a grown woman and mother of three, solace to think of a young girl and those around her settling into a life of contentment and fulfillment after what initially seemed to be a poor fit and bad draw all around, I can only imagine how comforting this read will be for the angst-ridden younger set.
Add this book to your collection: Once Was a Time
About Leila Sales
Leila Sales is the author of the young adult novels Mostly Good Girls, Past Perfect, This Song Will Save Your Life, and Tonight the Streets Are Ours. She grew up outside of Boston, Massachusetts, graduated with a degree in psychology from the University of Chicago, and now lives in Brooklyn, New York. Once Was a Time is her first book for younger readers. and follow her on Twitter at .
Once Was a Time, written by Leila Sales, was reviewed by Gail Cornwall. Discover more books like Once Was a Time by following along with our reviews and articles tagged with Books with Portal Travel, Fantasy, Friendship, Middle Grade Books, and Time Travel.