Stop me if you’ve heard this
BY SARAH HUNTER
Time loops are nothing new as far as narrative devices are concerned, but the 1993 film Groundhog Day gave us perhaps the best iteration: a time loop as an opportunity to perfect one terrible day and contemplate what
makes existence meaningful. The premise walks a tightrope
between alluring fantasy and horror show: What could be
better than an opportunity to correct embarrassing mistakes?
And what could be worse than being doomed to see the
same events play out for an eternity?
Middle and high school are breeding grounds for regret, so
they make perfect fits for the narrative device—at that age,
every agonizing moment seems completely irredeemable.
The following titles, both middle grade and YA, play with the
time-loop trope in varied ways to explore themes of choice,
consequence, and second (and third, and fourth) chances.
11 Birthdays. By Wendy Mass. 2009.
Scholastic, $16.99 (9780545052399).
Another chance to make things right is
all Amanda and Leo, born on the same
day, need on their eleventh birthdays, and
they get it. The once-close, now-estranged
friends both live their eleventh birthday
over and over again, until they make their
way back to friendship.
The 39 Deaths of Adam Strand. By
Gregory Galloway. 2013. Dutton, $17.99
(9780525425656). Gr. 10–12.
Another chance is the last thing Adam
Strand wants, but he gets it anyway. The
nihilistic teen wakes up after each of his
39 suicides, no matter how violent his
death may be, and resumes life in what
he perceives to be a meaningless world.
When he befriends an ill young girl, he
begins to see more than the gray monoto-
ny of his existence.
Before I Fall. By Lauren Oliver. 2010.
Harper Teen, $17.99 (9780061726804).
Another chance at saving her life seems
like a gift for Samantha, who wakes up in
her bed on Friday morning after a fatal
car crash Friday night. Seemingly insignificant changes in her daily routine lead