Correlation strikes me as a book that breaks, or at least stretches, a couple rules and, as a result is both an enjoyable read and unique because of it.
The first half of the story is a well put together contemporary young adult story with a protagonist, Hailey, who is the kind of main character I like to see in a YA story responsible, yet not perfect, with the normal struggles of someone on the cusp of adulthood. This part of the story also has a crisis which causes Hailey a lot of internal conflict. But midway through the book it takes a turn into light science fiction when Hailey finds herself involuntarily time traveling. This makes Correlation harder to pigeon-hole, is it science fiction? (probably not for hardcore science fiction fans), but this twist goes far enough it has to be mentioned.
The other thing that struck me as unique (at least not something I’d seen before, although I saw it happen in two books I read the same week) was Grace broke one of Marty McFly’s basic rules of time travel. Saying more would be a spoiler for sure, so I won’t. Through the second half of the book I found that I (and I expect most readers) understood what was happening to Hailey, while she spends much of it confused, trying to figure out what is going on. Down the stretch I was eager to see where the story was going and for Hailey to figure everything out, but also wondered how (or if) she would ultimately do that.
“Do you believe it’s possible to change history?”
Sixteen-year-old Hailey Kent faces this question in Correlation, a young adult novel by Rosemary Fifield (writing as Mia Grace). A ride on a old Schwinn bicycle owned by Susan, the grandmother of Hailey’s best friend Jenna, sends Hailey back in time to the 1960s with a chance to change the future of her family and friends.
The story begins with a glimpse of Susan’s life as a teenager in rural Vermont in 1966. Susan has a love for her new rose-colored three-speed bicycle and for Peter Wells, a boy who lived in a Victorian house on Redemption Hill. We skip ahead to 2013. Peter had been killed in Vietnam, Susan married someone else and started a family, and the house on Redemption Hill had been left an abandoned ruin. Hailey, whose sixteenth birthday had been overshadowed by her brother David’s high school graduation, faces further heartbreak when David is seriously injured in a car accident caused by Jenna’s brother Cody. To help cope with the accident, Jenna and Hailey venture to the abandoned house on Redemption Hill to clean it up. When Hailey goes to the house one day by herself on Susan’s old Schwinn (after her own bike had been stolen), she finds that the house appears to be fixed up and occupied — and one of the people there is Peter Wells.
Time travel can be tough to pull off, but Correlation handles it well. The fantasy is grounded by rich, evocative descriptions of Fenton, Vermont and the rural communities around it. You can feel the heat of a summer day and smell the odors of an abandoned house. More importantly, the characters seem natural and down-to-earth. Hailey is the type of character I’d like to see in YA, a teenager who acts like a teenager. The characters around her act natural too. When Hailey’s brother David is injured and comatose, her parents act as you would expect in that situation.
When time travel is introduced, Correlation presents it in a matter-of-fact “gee, this seems odd” way. Hailey questions her sanity and must piece together what is going on until she realizes what is happening. When Hailey reacts to being in the past, her actions seem natural and normal for a teenager. The consequences of those actions unfold in unexpected ways.
The “butterfly effect” of time travel stories usually shows the present changing in dramatic and terrible ways. Correlation shows a more subtle change. History can be changed in some ways, but not others. Sometimes, it has a positive effect, sometimes not. Always, our future is the result of our choices, not fate. The outcome of those changes and the decisions people make in the story cause Correlation to stick with you, and they leave you thinking for a long time.
The only issue I could see in Correlation was that the story was a bit confusing at the beginning. I had to make myself remember what the house and the characters were in the past. (It isn’t easy to flip back and forth in an eBook. You really stick your thumb between virtual pages.) Once I got into the story, I could keep track of who these characters were in the past and present, and the story made more sense.
Overall, Correlation is a beautifully written story with natural, realistic characters and a twist you won’t forget. If you’re looking for an engaging YA novel, add Correlation to your reading list.