By Ali Sparkes
Published by Oxford
Novelists invent many ingenious ways of getting parents out of the way so that teenagers can find themselves in a situation that leads to a good story. In Frozen in Time, Ali Sparkes comes up with a particularly good one.
Ben and Rachel's mum and dad are professional stage magicians and they often go away on tour, leaving their offspring with eccentric Uncle Jerome in the family mansion. There is a convenient overgrown garden nearby for Ben and Rachel to explore. The scene is all nicely and efficiently set for an adventure.
It is the wettest day of the school holidays so far and 13-year-old Ben and his 12-year-old sister Rachel are bored. During a break in the rain, they play in the soaked garden, and come across some sort of metal cylinder buried in the wet soil.
Armed with shovels and spades, they dig down to get the cylinder out of the ground. It might just be buried treasure. But what the two teens have discovered is a bomb shelter that has been covered by earth and mud.
And what they discover when they venture inside the shelter is truly amazing. Among the old-fashioned furnishings of the main chamber, Ben and Rachel find two frozen figures, a boy and a girl, inside a capsule. As if that discovery isn't odd enough, when Rachel accidentally presses a button, the two teens come alive.
What follows is all rather far-fetched, but Sparkes' clear story-telling makes Frozen in Time a riveting read. The two new teenagers are Freddy and Polly and it turns out that they were put into cryonic suspension by their scientist-father back in 1956. Why he did it and what happened to him after experimenting on his own children forms one of the many mysteries that now surface and that the four children must investigate and solve.
Frozen in Time has an intriguing plot - a combination of comedy, science fiction, adventure and good old-fashioned mystery. Much of the humour comes from how the 1956 teens adapt to the modern world and how their new friends keep the secret of their identity hidden.
Sparkes has created an interesting situation, bringing two teenagers from the not-too-distant past into the modern world. Freddy and Polly are two characters that readers quickly warm to. Sparkes is very clever at creating authentic dialogue for the two 50s teenagers and readers laugh with them - not at them - as they cope with things 50 years into their future.
Frozen in Time is first and foremost a science-fiction adventure, and it is up there with the best. In some sci-fi stories, the characters take second place to the plot, but Sparkes doesn't let this happen. The four teens at the centre of the mystery and the adults who have created it are sharply drawn and pull the reader firmly into the plot. Highly recommended.
John Millen can be contacted on MillenBookshelf@aol.com