A Long Way From Home

A Long Way From Home
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Release Date
October 04, 2022
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Twelve-year-old Abby has a lot to worry about: Climate change. The news. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch. And now moving to Florida for her mom's new job at an aerospace company.
On the Space Coast, Abby meets two boys, Adam and Bix, who tell her they're "a long way from home" and need her help. Abby discovers they're from the future, from a time when all the problems of the 21st century have been solved. Thrilled, Abby strikes a deal with them: She'll help them—if they let her come to the future with them. But soon Abby is forced to question her attachment to a perfect future and her complicated feelings about the present.

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Abby is not thrilled when her mother gets a job with Space Now in Florida. She's worried enough about everything in her life, especially climate change and the general state of the world, and she's not looking forward to starting a new school and having to figure out a new community, even though she is a little curious about meeting her mother's aunt Nora who lives in the area and was also a brilliant scientist. Abby's been working on her anxiety, and has some coping skills that she uses, but sometimes it's not enough. She's especially not thrilled about having a Where Everyone Belongs mentor, Juliana. She'd rather just fly under the radar at school, and doom scroll once she gets home. A couple of things stop her from doing this; she meets two boys at a local fast food restaurant who seem very out of place. Adam and Bix tell her that they are a long way from home and looking for Adam's twin sister Vanessa (or V, as she likes to be called), and that they need a place to stay while they are waiting for her. Luckily, Abby's father has an enclosed boat docked nearby, and he's too busy fixing up their house to spend much time at it. The boys' story gets more and more interesting; they claim to be from 250 years in the future! After experiencin their world through a piece of their technology, Abby decides that the future looks much better than the present, and she's ready to leave everything behind to join them once they find V. She also gets drawn in to Juliana's mother's dog business, and finds that she likes hanging out with Juliana and her family. She also approaches Nora, and the older woman grudgingly visits with her, even though she is not on good terms with Abby's mother. As the Space Now Athena Heavy project approaches its deadline, and Abby's mother is involved in getting ready for its launch, Abby steps out of her own comfort zone to help Adam and Bix. It doesn't hurt that she really likes Adam and is looking forward to her new life in the 23rd century. She keeps getting weird messages on the refurbished smart phone that her father has gotten her, and these start to have some meaning when Adam and Bix's quest isn't going well. The Space Now launch runs into trouble, and Abby's mom and her aunt have to come to an understanding when they all need to help Adam and Bix. Will Abby get to pursue her dream of living in a utopian future, or will she find that Florida in the present day is where she needs to be?
Good Points
Many of my students will see themselves in Abby, since everyone seems to be anxious about everything these days. I absolutely loved Nora's explanation of anxiety-- it's something that's part of the human package, like opposable thumbs. We all have to deal with it from time to time. Abby does grow during the book; her life doesn't become perfect, but she gains some perspective, and that is such a crucial realization for middle grade readers. Very well done. I was sucked right in to Adam and Bix's story and was completely happy to suspend any disbelief. Perhaps the fact that Abby's mother and great aunt were involved in the space program made the science fiction element seem more realistic, but this struck me as exactly the kind of science fiction book that readers who aren't exactly fans of the genre will be more likely to pick up, while readers who are sure that they could travel to the future will be equally enthralled! This was a good spin on a moving tale as well; Abby is able to make friends and settle in to her new environment even though it was very different. I was also a big fan of the message that when things look bleak, sometimes it helps to do one small thing, and I loved the depiction of women in a demanding field of science, especially contrasting the aunt and mother's experiences a number of years apart. There's even a nicely romantic scene at the end that rounds things out nicely. Looking forward to handing this to students.

Think of this as a magical realism type of science fiction; based enough in the real world to make sense to readers who have trouble getting their minds around elaborate world building. Also a great choice for readers who want to investigate current ecological topics in books like Dimopoulos' Turn the Tide, Guillory's Nowhere Better Than Here, Cartaya's The Last Beekeeper or Rosenberg's One Small Hop.
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