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Rewind
William Sleator
Penguin/Dutton Children's Books, 128 pages

Rewind
William Sleator
William Sleator is the bestselling author of The Beasties, The Night the Heads Came, Interstellar Pig, and many other popular novels combining horror and science fiction. Sleator divides his time between homes in Boston, Massachusetts, and rural Thailand.

ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: The Boxes
William Sleator Tribute Site
Biography of William Sleator
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Past Feature Reviews
A review by Victoria Strauss

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Rewind starts with a bang -- literally: on the first page, 11-year-old Peter is hit and killed by a neighbour's car. But he isn't permanently dead, or at least not yet. He finds himself inside a great white light, where a disembodied voice informs him that he is being given a chance to go back and prevent his death. Just knowing the car is going to hit him and deciding to avoid it won't be enough -- the circumstances that caused him to dash out in front of it the first time will catch him up again in the same way. He has to make a deeper change.

The solution seems obvious to Peter: he'll put sugar in the car's gas tank so it won't start. But everything else happens as it did before, and Peter finds himself running out into the road again -- where he's hit by a different car.

Miraculously, he's given another chance. This time, he understands that he has to go further back into his life, and find a way to prevent the terrible quarrel with his parents that drove him out into the street. The quarrel involved Peter's talent for art, which his parents think is a waste of time. But how can Peter change his parents' minds, and make them see how important art is to him? How can he change himself, so that they'll be more accepting of him, without sacrificing the interests that mean most to him? And how can he prevent the class bully, Kurt Meyer, from sabotaging all his efforts?

Fans of Sleator's creepy and complicated science fiction stories may be surprised by this relatively straightforward tale, in which there aren't any particularly strange goings-on -- other than the fact that the narrator is dead, of course. Even this supernatural element is only a frame for Peter's real-world attempt to come to a better understanding of himself and those around him. But the plot is as swift and the characters as engaging as in any Sleator novel, and the question of how Peter will resolve his dilemma generates some real suspense. Sleator doesn't flinch from making his adult characters authentically unpleasant: Peter's parents are pretty awful, and you feel a lot of sympathy for poor Peter as he struggles to win their approval.

A fun book for younger readers, with an appealing message about maturity, and the importance of remaining true to your own best self.

Copyright © 1999 by Victoria Strauss

Victoria Strauss is a novelist, and a lifelong reader of fantasy and science fiction. Her most recent fantasy novel, The Arm of the Stone, is currently available from Avon Eos. For an excerpt, visit her website.


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