This taut and exciting story, first published in 1995, successfully combines insight and imagination with a strong moral message. 12-year-old Lydia Henson has recently moved with her family from London to a small Yorkshire town. Already an outsider, she is victimised after being framed for the theft of a school cup. The story then takes an unexpected turn as she is transported 37 years into the future, and sees the far reaching consequences of this situation and the resentment that it causes. But can Lydia get back to her own time, and change the future?
Blackman portrays the unpleasant processes of social ostracism with painful realism, before launching into a science-fiction adventure with echoes of Orwell’s 1984 and Wells’s The Shape of Things to Come. Here, a local tyrant rules with the aid of visored guards, while a resistance movement operates through underground passages. This dystopian future, with flying cars and synthetic-meat sandwiches, is also close enough to the present to be populated by the adult versions of Lydia’s fellow-pupils, now approaching 50. This enables an immediate link to be established between the realism of the first few chapters and the science-fiction that follows.
Although not all the elements from the future are resolved (is Britain still going to break up into rival principalities?), the corrosive and destructive effects of ‘bitterness and pain and overwhelming hatred’ are graphically demonstrated. This is the real core of the book, presented with an ingenious combination of school-story and science-fiction which makes it a meaningful and salutary read.