Thursday, October 28, 2010
Published March 2010 by Bloomsbury USA
Source: the high school library
Teenager Will Hodges is a pretty miserable kid. His mother is dead; he remembers seeing her dead in the water but can't remember anything about what happened. His father has become radically political and heavily involved with a man whose political leanings are so nationalist that he seems he will stop at nothing to convict Will's old friend of murder just because he's not a native citizen. His friends won't have anything to do with him, he's having terrible headaches and nightmares about concentration camps are waking him up almost nightly. But most disturbing to Will are the people he keeps seeing who look familiar to him until he gets closer; then he realizes he doesn't know them but most certainly seem to know him.
More and more these people, these "freaks," start showing up...at school, on the street and even in Will's yard. Then one day Will decides that it's time to confront one of these people and is surprised to find that they have been waiting for him to recognize them and they know him from another time in history. They are the Returners and Will, they say, is one of them. Now Will has to a decision to make: will he follow what they say is his destiny or will he choose to break the cycle and do what he knows is the right thing.
Although the first 150 pages of the book are a little slow moving, the story really picks up once Will meets the Returns and discovers what they know about his past and what they say is his destiny. Then all of the build up starts to come together as Will is has to decide if there is really such a thing as free will or if all of us are pre-destined to follow a certain path. I don't want to give away too much of the story; it will have to suffice to say that being a Returner is not a pleasant destiny and yet they all seem perfectly willing to stay on the path they have been following for thousands of years.
The book is marketed as being for 12-year-olds and up but I think someone that young would not really get the messages this book delivers. My daughter read it in sophomore English and I think that 15- to 16-year-olds would be able to have a terrific discussion of the themes in this story.