College student Polly believes that she has led a completely ordinary, uneventful life. But while packing for her return to school after a vacation, she begins to contemplate a photograph that has hung on her bedroom wall for years. As she looks at the photograph, she slowly begins to remember a different version of her past — a past in which her closest friend was a talented cellist named Thomas Lynn. In this alternate timeline, Polly met Tom when she was a little girl, and they quickly struck up a friendship, writing letters to each other full of strange and magical events. But when their made-up stories started to happen in real life, Polly knew that something sinister was at stake. Now she must sift through her rediscovered memories in order to save Tom from seemingly certain doom.
This is a book that I really liked overall, but I have a couple of major nitpicks. First, I love Diana Wynne Jones’ style; I’ve read a few of her books and enjoyed them, but I really need to seek out the rest of her work! I also really like the concept of the book: basically, Polly has two sets of memories and has to figure out what that means. It was a really interesting idea to explore, and I think it was executed very well. My biggest quibble is the ending, which I don’t think works at all. Polly realizes why she has the dual memories, figures out how to save herself and Tom, and then it just kind of happens with no real explanation. What happens to the baddies? What will Polly and Tom do going forward? There are a lot of unanswered questions, and that bugs me. My other problem with the book was the romance; I just found it really icky that the hero was so much older than Polly and that he basically had his eye on her since she was a child. I can see where DWJ was trying to go with it, but it did not work for me. Still, this is a book I would definitely recommend overall, especially to fans of retold fairy tales.