Pros: Fantasy; lesson about learning the value of what you have.
Cons: Inclusion of magic may be a con for some; my son did not like it.
My sixth-grade son recently had a book report to do, and the book he came home from school with was 12 Again by Sue Corbett. He is a phenomenal student and normally, he could finish off a book like this in a few hours, so when I saw that after half an hour he barely made a dent in it, I knew that he was bored. To see if the book was really that bad, I decided to read the first chapter, and then I continued reading because I was hooked.
The story focuses on the McBride family: Gerard and Bernadette, their three boys, Patrick, Kevin and Neil and Grandma Fiona. Patrick and his mother are the main focus of the book, although Grandma plays a strong role concerning the mystery that ensues when his mother is missing for almost two months.
Even though she is missing from the family and her 40-year old life, the audience knows that Bernadette is back to her twelve-year old self and is actually in some of her son's classes at school and Patrick never really figures out that his mother is closer than he thinks. The chapters go back and forth between how Patrick is dealing with his mother's disappearance and how his mother is coping with what is going on in her life, and one of their names is printed on the bottom of each right-hand page, just in case you lose track of whose point of view you are reading about at the moment.
How mom became a pre-teen, and how she can get back is the mystery behind this story. Is it magic? Is it a bad dream? Although she an adolescent, she has all of the knowledge and abilities that she has garnered during her life. She now lives with her own mother (who has since passed away in the current year), and within the house that they share, they are in 1972. Her clothes, what is on television, and all that is within those walls reflect that year, so that her laptop does not work at home simply because it has not yet been invented.
When she turned 40, Bernadette wished she was younger, but now that she has been transported back in time, all she wants is to go back to her real life. Mom eventually finds out what she needs to get back to where she belongs and Patrick is the only one who can help her, which he willingly does in response to her strange emails.
Since this book is designed for pre-teens, I anticipated a happy ending with mom returning to her proper life and the family living happily ever after. The ending, however, fell short. Yes, Bernadette did wake up one morning to find that she was once again forty, while a few blocks away, her son Patrick was buying a cake that said "Welcome home, Mom" on it. That was it. I expected to turn the page and find her walking through the front door, or at least for them to see each other both heading for home, and without that I felt this book lacked a proper ending.
While Patrick and his mother did not exactly switch places, her clock was rewound back to his current age. As a twelve-year old with the knowledge of a forty-year old, she did rather well in school, and actually, as a twelve-year old who had to take on some responsibilities of a forty-year old, Patrick demonstrated that he was very mature and could handle it, although he would love to be "just twelve again."
Originally as an adult, mom Bernadette wished she could be young again, but without specifying how young, she was returned to junior high school. Since that meant plucking her out of her normal life with no explanation to her family, this caused her more heartache than she could have imagined. I do not think that I would want to be twelve again, even if I had the knowledge of my own forty years, especially if it meant that I would simply vanish from my life without my family and friends knowing why.
12 Again is geared for a young-adult audience, and although I found the story interesting from an adult point of view, it really it best geared for the junior high school crowd. The fact that twelve-year old Patrick had to suddenly assume adult roles of cooking, cleaning and looking after his younger siblings was a turn-off for my own eleven-year old son. The Irish Folklore, fairies, and magic involved in this mystery means that you have to let your mind be open to different possibilities, as those are not topics or ideas that appeal to everyone.