I couldn’t remember if I read this one or not as a kid. Then I looked at the copyright, which is 1994, so I almost certainly did not read it. I was 17 in 1994, and too old for this book. I just bought it now to review for two reasons, 1-it’s by Mary Downing Hahn and 2-it was only fifty cents, so I figured what the hell.
This book is like Freaky Friday meets Back to the Future. It starts off with Drew, a 12 year old who is staying for the summer with his Aunt Blythe, who is living in and renovating a very very old house that has been in their family for generations. Drew’s parents are summering in France for his dad’s job. Mom is evidently NOT working in France, and they never quite explain why Drew isn’t coming along. I think it would be a great experience for Drew to travel internationally. But they didn’t ask me. Anyway, Drew is a shy nervous child. He gets bullied by another kid at school and he is very attached to his parents and he cries easily. And even though he loves his Aunt Blythe, he is nervous about staying in that big scary old house all summer. Plus, Aunt Blythe is caring for her dementia-ridden father, who takes an immediate dislike to Drew.
On Drew’s first day there, he is exploring and realizes the attic stairs are behind a door in his bedroom. He and Aunt Blythe go through some old family stuff in the attic and they find a sack of marbles, which has a warning not to remove them signed by a boy named Andrew, who Aunt Blythe said was a distant relative who died as a boy. Aunt Blythe thinks the marbles are valuable and takes them. That night, Drew is visited by the ghost of Andrew, his many times great uncle or cousin (or something) who is pissed that his marbles have been taken. Drew and Andrew look exactly alike. Andrew looks very ill though, turns out he is, back in 1910, dying of diptheria. Andrew convinces Drew to switch places with him, so modern medicine can cure him. Drew agrees, reluctantly.
Drew (now Andrew) wakes up the next morning in 1910, with Andrew’s mama so happy that her son, who was expected to have died in the night has made a miraculous recovery. But Drew, of course, knows nothing about living in 1910 and doesn’t remember his siblings, Hannah and Theo. This is blamed on his fever, which sounds reasonable in a 1910 sort of way. Drew and Hannah bond. Drew goes up to the attic every night to find Andrew, but he isn’t there to meet him. Drew has problems living as Andrew. Andrew was “all boy.” In that he climbed trees, got in trouble, got whuppins from Daddy and was a general rabble rouser. This is, of course, the exact opposite of Drew’s personality.
Time goes on, and Drew starts to retain some of Andrew’s personality. He starts to forget his life back in the 1990’s. But he still goes to the attic every night. Finally one night, Andrew is there to meet him. He loves the 90’s and is in no hurry to get back to 1910. He tells Drew they will play marbles (specifically Ringer) every night and when Drew can beat him, they’ll switch back. Andrew is a great Ringer player, and Drew has no idea how to play, so he has to get Hannah to teach him. He says the fever wiped marbles clear out of his mind. (or…he lost his marbles. Gah! I’m so funny.)
Turns out that Andrew had an ongoing battle with a local cousin, Edward. They get in fights and before the diptheria struck, Andrew had told Edward he’d jump from a nearby railroad trestle into the raging river below. During a confrontation at a soda shop, Edward bets Drew he won’t do it, but Theo jumps in and is all “hell yes he will!” The date is set for one week from then. Drew really needs to beat Andrew in Ringer so he doesn’t have to do it!
But he can’t beat him. Andrew is just too good. The day comes and Theo and Drew go to the railroad trestle. Edward is there too. Drew can’t bring himself to jump. But Edward trips and falls down, hitting his head on a rock. Without thinking, Drew jumps in to save Edward, who is a fucking douche about it. He says that he did NOT fall in, the Drew pushed him and the he (Drew) fell in. Stunned by Edward’s ingratitude, Drew fights him. And earns another whuppin’ from his Pa. (But Pa is secretly proud.) Oh yeah….turns out Edward Aunt Blythe’s father. The one who hates Drew on sight!
That night, Drew beats Andrew in Ringer. Andrew is still reluctant to switch places and tries to appear to Mama and Hannah. When he realizes that they can’t see him, and if he doesn’t switch places with Drew, he might never see them again. So they switch.
Drew wakes up in the 1990’s. He tries to make nice to Old-Man Edward, but it doesn’t work. Drew runs out to the family graveyard. There is no grave marker for Andrew. Aunt Blythe tells Drew that they are getting a surprise visit from her cousin, Hannah. And guess who Hannah brings with her? Her elderly brother, Andrew. Andrew thanks Drew for switching places with him and giving him a new lease on life. Sweet…
- There is a not-too subtle attempt to use old timey language in this book. The most used phrase is “What in tarnation.”
- I don’t quite get what it is about the marbles that made Andrew come back when they were taken. Magical marbles? Wasn’t really explained all that well.
- So Drew’s parents come back from France when they learn that their son woke up with Diptheria. But even diptheria wasn’t quite enough to keep them (or at least one of them) there for long. Guh.
- So not only did Drew get some of Andrew’s guts in the end, Old Man Andrew tells him that his time as Drew sweetened him up a bit.
- Evidently Andrew told Hannah at some point that he was Drew for that one summer. Old Lady Hannah says “In some ways, I think I knew all along.” Right, of course. In some little way, she knew that her brother who was meant to die one night, woke up not as himself but as his great-great nephew who happened to look exactly like him who traveled back in time from 80 years in to the future. Riiiiight.
- My next two posts are going to be about books that were a MAJOR part of my adolescence. They are my two most favorite teen-angsty books. I can’t wait to do them!