Reading/Interest Level: Intermediate
Author: Jennifer Maschari
Publisher: Balzer & Bray
Grief group isn’t helping Charlie, Dad is always working, and Charlie’s little sister, Imogen, is depressed. Life since Mom died of cancer is tough, and Charlie can’t talk to anyone, especially since his friend Frank disappeared after his grandma died. One day, Imogen finds a hatch under her bed, leading to a place where Mom is alive. In disbelief, Charlie follows Imogen through the hatch to find a world that parallels their own except there’s a living, cancer-free Mom! With more visits, Charlie slowly becomes suspicious. When Imogen enters the hatch alone, he and his neighbor's dog Ruby rush to save her. Charlie convinces Imogen to return to reality by telling her of new memories they’ll make. Imogen and Charlie reconnect with their dad and receive a new puppy who looks strikingly like Ruby.
Throughout the book, Maschari uses different characters to address ways in which people deal with loss. While Frank and Imogen dwell in the past, Dad and Elliott become workaholics, and Charlie bottles up his feelings. Eventually, each character finds his or her own remedy to overcome grief, providing readers with many role models to discuss. Once he finds the other world, Charlie takes half the book to realize that reliving memories is taking over his life. Perhaps Maschari delays this conclusion to suggest the difficulty of accepting loss. Once Charlie does realize the need to move forward, he gathers courage to help others do the same—the main moral of the book.