CM . . . .
Volume VI Number 12 . . . . February 18, 2000
Ashleigh walked home from school alone.From the moment 12-year-old Ashleigh Cunningham starts reading the new book she bought at a garage sale, "The Tomorrow Tunnel," her life changes. No matter how hard she tries to stay awake, every time she begins reading the book, she falls asleep and dreams of tomorrow's events. Her newfound ability to see into the future influences her relationships both at home and at school. Although seeing herself score the winning goal in a soccer match gives her confidence, knowing exactly what will happen in class the next day costs her friendships.
Ashleigh "sees" her sister, Dana, getting hit by a car and follows Dana to rescue her from the accident. Forced to confess the predictive nature of the book to Dana, Ashleigh actually feels better. "Now that she understood how The Tomorrow Tunnel worked, Ashleigh wasn't afraid of it. She didn't need to worry about her dreams tormenting her. She could open the tunnel, or she could leave it closed. It was her choice." Unfortunately, Ashleigh soon discovers leaving the book alone is a challenge. She becomes addicted - the book and its predictions take over her life. "More and more Ashleigh discovered she didn't want to make decisions without the tunnel. If, for some reason, she had to face a day without consulting it, she would almost panic."
Ashleigh traces the book to Deja Vu Books whose owner, Mr. Frechette, had forced his wife to get rid of the book and its predictions. Mr. Frechette calls the book evil, poisonous, madness-producing and urges Ashleigh to "destroy it before it destroys you." She calls the Frechettes "two very scary people." When Dana dares Ashleigh to stay away from the book, she finds that she cannot stop "tunneling." Not until after the final soccer game of the year, which the tunnel showed Ashleigh's team losing by four goals, is she shocked back to reality. After the game, her mother wonders why Ashleigh played so poorly. "You lacked intensity . . . spirit. You didn't play with any heart." Dana points out that "the tunnel only takes you so far. It hints at what might happen . . . so you think you know what's going to happen." As Ashleigh considers their opinions, she realizes she has been a puppet and concludes, "that wasn't living at all." Only when she locates her name sticker and removes it does she gain freedom from the addictive powers of the tunnel. She returns the book to Mrs. Frechette, trying to help her gain freedom from the addiction.
Butcher uses the device of the silver book with a "dull black circle that resembled a bottomless hole" with the title in "eerie green letters." A personal item of the reader is the key that unlocks the magic - for Ashleigh, a name sticker, for Mrs. Frechette, a pressed four-leaf clover. Butcher, as she did in The Runaways, 1997, presents an inventive and appealing protagonist with a set of supporting character types. The plot is well constructed and well paced; the dialogue is natural and appropriate. Friendship, family relationships, personal responsibility, decision-making, addiction - all feature in Ashleigh's experience. Any hint of the supernatural seems to appeal to many young adult readers who should find this story satisfactorily suspenseful and scary. The novel ends on a "what if" tone.
Darleen Golke works as a teacher-librarian at Fort Richmond Collegiate in Winnipeg, MB.
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