Monday, September 8, 2014

MG Book Review: Turning on a Dime, by Maggie Dana

General Information
Publisher: Maggie Dana
Year of publication: 2014
# of chapters: 41
# of pages: e-book
Genre: Time Travel

Plot summary (from the website):
Teenage equestrian Samantha DeVries wants to be the first African American to ride in the Olympics. Her father, a successful trainer, pushes Sam to excel, while Sam’s academic mother tries to instill a sense of heritage in her headstrong daughter who’d rather be riding horses than studying history. But Sam’s beliefs and her carefully constructed world shatter like a jelly jar when she travels through a time portal and lands in the canopy bed of an 1860s Southern belle.

Even more surprised by Sam’s unexpected arrival is Caroline Chandler. She’s a tomboy who wears breeches beneath her crinoline and rides horses bareback, much to the dismay of her critical mother.
But neither girl has time to fret over petticoats and prejudice. The Civil War is raging, and soldiers from both sides are stealing horses. At risk is Pandora, Caroline’s beloved mare. Without her, Sam’s future Olympic horse, Nugget, might not exist in the present.

Neither will Sam if the slave catchers grab her.

Positive Points
Ooh, the Kindle copy I had didn't come with a cover, so I just saw it when I searched for a picture for this blog post. Wow, it really conveys what the story is about: two girls from different centuries, both crazy about horses. The interesting element in this story is that Samantha (from the twenty-first century) is African-American. She time-travels to 1863 in Mississippi and meets Caroline, whose family owns slaves. I won't say more about this, but I found it very interesting. The chapters alternate between Samantha and Caroline, so we get both POVs. Very well done.

The author definitely knows a lot about horses, and her love for them shows in this book. I'm not crazy about horses myself, but I enjoyed reading the story and learning a bit more about this graceful animal.

I love time travel stories. This one was cleverly done, and the way the two girls came to trust each other little by little seemed natural. There aren't that many MG novels about the Civil War era. I liked the historical elements in this book: just enough historical details to get the readers situated without overwhelming them.

Negative Points
At times, Caroline's voice didn't sound natural, like she was pondering on things someone from her era wouldn't normally think about. For example: "But here in the South, girls don't have freedom. We're locked into corsets and crinolines, we're not allowed to say what we think, (...)." Would Caroline normally think about those things? Or was this written to inform the modern-day reader about what it's like to live in her time?  I kept thinking, Who is she talking to? I also found Caroline's voice and Sam's voice too similar. I wish they had been more distinct.

The time-travel portal was very obvious to the reader (to me, anyway), but Samantha was totally clueless. I found it a bit annoying. I'm curious to see if a young reader would figure it out as easily as I did.

What makes this book unique
Horses and Civil War elements make this time-travel story stand out from the crowd.

Overall Impression
Despite the negative elements I mentioned, I kept reading until the end because I was curious to find out how the two girls would meet, and then how everything would turn out for them. I would have given it three stars, but after seeing the cover, I think I'll add one more star just for that. The cover is amazing!

My Rating:

Thinking of purchasing this book? I'll make it easy for you:


Greg Pattridge said...

Such an intriguing story line. It will pull in horse lovers along with those who enjoy time travel stories. Thanks for the review of a book I had not heard about.

Jenni said...

I really liked the whole idea of a modern African American girl time traveling at the time of the Civil War. This really sounds intriguing, and I'm not much of a fan of horses! Thanks for the feature!

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