Review: Once Was A Time

Leila Sales - Once Was A Time
Expected publication: April 5, 2016 by Chronicle Books
Pages: 272
Genres: Historical Fiction, Middle Grade
Find on: Amazon, Goodreads, Book Depository
Rating: 2.5/5

In the war-ravaged England of 1940, Charlotte Bromley is sure of only one thing: Kitty McLaughlin is her best friend in the whole world. But when Charlotte's scientist father makes an astonishing discovery that the Germans will covet for themselves, Charlotte is faced with an impossible choice between danger and safety. Should she remain with her friend or journey to another time and place? Her split-second decision has huge consequences, and when she finds herself alone in the world, unsure of Kitty's fate, she knows that somehow, some way, she must find her way back to her friend. Written in the spirit of classic time-travel tales, this book is an imaginative and heartfelt tribute to the unbreakable ties of friendship.
I was two seconds away from DNFing this because of its insanely boring start. I'm new to Leila Sales. I've had Tonight The Streets Are Ours on my wishlist for eight years now. Sadly, I'd have to consider her middle-grade debut mediocre.

It's the year 1940. England is torn apart by war. Charlotte Bromley and Catherine "Kitty" McLaughlin are best friends. Charlotte's father is a scientist, investigating the theory of time travel. After being confronted and kidnapped by a suspicious group, Charlotte and Kitty are held captive along with her father by Germans, who demand information about time travel in exchange for their lives.

So when a portal miraculously materializes in the corner of the room, Charlotte pounces for it. After Kitty fails to notice it, she dives in alone and abandons her best friend.

Obviously, she quashes the Wicked Witch of the East and follows the Yellow Brick Road and the story ends on a tragic cliffhanger.

Gosh, I kid. Instead of winding up somewhere glamorous, the portal tosses her into classic ol Sutton, Wisconsin. Being from 1900s England, Charlotte obviously has no clue where she is, so when she stumbles upon a residential area and a friendly boy, near her age, named Jake. She's initially hesitant of him and wanting only to return to her best friend, Kitty.

In retrospect, the idea is fabulous but I expected action. There was nothing that completely had me. Charlotte is snatched by CPS and really does nothing to fight it. I expected her to go on the run or try harder to return to her timezone. She pretends to be part of a Mean Girls-esque clique, dreams of Kitty occasionally, and struggles to choose a curriculum. #FirstWorldProblems

I expected action and drama and better friendships, all of which were not received. Charlotte was a terrible friend. Kitty. And why was Kitty so perfect? I need Kitty to be my best friend. Kitty did everything for her. Like, Sloane from Since You've Been Gone, and Charlotte hardly appreciated any of what she'd done for her.

The story needed to be longer. I honestly feel like I'm missing a vital chunk of the plotline. Why do portals randomly appear? Why didn't Charlotte try harder to return to her century? Why was Jake so okay with everything? So many unanswered questions. Leila Sales is a talented writer, nonetheless, but I was hardly knocked from my chair by this.