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Michael Thomas Perone
Déjà View

Déjà View is a coming-of-age/sci-fi novel about a 12-year-old boy who doesn’t want to grow up. After burying a time capsule to commemorate the end of the 1980s, he starts being haunted by ghostly doppelgangers of himself, his friends, and others. He calls them “déjà view.” Now, in order to survive his childhood, he needs to figure out if they’re real or if he’s slowly losing his mind.

Perone’s sophomore novel, following Danger Peak, is a slow-burn, time-warped Atari-and-MTV-era nightmare with heaps of heart, all centered on middle-schooler Bobby Dalton, a kind-hearted late bloomer who isn’t quite ready to grow up. His best friends, Joe and Max, by contrast, are ready to leave their childhoods behind, especially with the arrival of Derrick, a new kid from California who knows far more about the adult world than the trio does. As the distance grows between Bobby and his friends, Bobby becomes more and more determined to win them back, and an inspired idea for a group activity sprouts in his mind: a time capsule for just Bobby, Max and Joe to say goodbye to their kid selves. The consequences of this ceremony prove wilder than any of them could imagine, as, after burying the capsule, Bobby begins to see visions of himself and his friends from the past, naming the phenomenon “déjà view.”

Perone’s story twists into unexpected directions from there, eventually becoming a science-fiction thriller with a terrifying conclusion reminiscent of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Throughout, though, Déjà View is attentive to character and the everyday impact of the fantastic on real lives, with engaging prose and sharp, funny dialogue. Nobody else can see these visions, so Bobby’s mother sends him to a therapist, Dr. Pann, to assist with what she believes are hallucinations brought about by hormonal changes. Though compassionate at first, Dr. Pann eventually reveals true intentions that will jolt Bobby’s life, as Perone ties the thriller elements into the everyday.

That attention to life as it’s lived, though, comes at the cost of narrative momentum, as much of the novel is dedicated to exploring the dynamics within Bobby’s friend group as the enticing mysteries percolate. Still, the climactic battle to save the fate of humanity, when it comes, is exciting and surprising, a mind-bender complete with lasers, evil scientists, and even love at first sight.

Takeaway: Character-driven sci-fi mind-bender centered on the pains of growing up.

Comparable Titles: Rae Carson’s Any Sign of Life, Katherine Paterson’s Bridge to Terabithia.

Production grades
Cover: B+
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A