Page 45 Review by Stephen
Amy and Jemmah are teenage best friends who've grown up together on a mining colony way out in deep space. They've developed special secret signals to confirm they'll be best friends forever! But when Amy's dad loses his job, the family are forced to board a spaceship back to Earth to begin a new life. Worse still is this killer catch: they'll all need to spend 30 years frozen in cryogenic suspension so that when Amy steps out, Jemmah will have grown up without her.
"All I can think about is how, when I arrive on Earth, Jemmah will be thirty years older than me."
Water wells up in her eye.
And then she is frozen.
When she wakes up, her arms feel heavy because of the increased gravity on Earth compared to the asteroid. Then she discovers something equally unexpected.
"I wipe my eye and a jewel falls out - a cold, sparkling diamond.
"No.Not a diamond. A tear.
"A tear that's been frozen for thirty years. It melts in my hand."
Throughout the book there is exactly that level of attention to detail - it's been very well thought through. They're all wheelchair-bound while they adjust to the gravity, exercising in swimming pools which are a novelty for Amy because water was understandably a scarce commodity back home.
Oh wait, this is home now, and the spaceport city the family are initially confined to proves to be a big disappointment. Amy had at least been promised big blue skies, but every long day is smog-ridden instead. Her parents still have each other, which makes any new challenge like moving more manageable, but Amy has now lost her best friend. She can't bear to call Jemmah because she's going to be forty-five now and can you imagine the alienation you'd feel yourself? Thirty years of extra experience and perspective - she'll be an adult, perhaps with a family of her own your age - while you're still fifteen.
There's also this: while Amy's been asleep, technology's moved on. When she arrives at her new school she discovers that everyone is on this new "net" - they're wearing glasses with access to stuff which I'll leave to surprise you - and at first they look as they're all living in their own world and sharing experiences Amy simply doesn't understand. McCranie does a bang-up job of emphasising this extra isolation on the page.
However, there are blue skies ahead and indeed overhead and here too McCranie excels at communicating the almost unimaginable wonder of seeing your first ever wide, blue sky with big white birds matching the train for speed. There the bright-as-a-button art really comes into its own, panels replaced by two double-page eye-poppers which bleed right to their bright blue edges.
For yes, Amy gets to move to Baltissippi Bay by the water, where she discovers snails (snails! Everything is brand-new!), makes friends far faster than she expected and... she still won't contact Jemmah...
Now can you imagine being Jemmah, and having waited thirty long years to hear from your best childhood friend again, those days drawing nearer and nearer and then nothing?
The deepest isolation is yet to come, however, for Amy has synesthesia: she has always associated people with flavours, sensing different flavours "emanating" from different individuals, and for the very first time she encounters someone with none. He's a silver-haired lad who keeps himself to himself, often skipping class, and his peers are all very wary of him.
Only once does Amy sense anything other than a void, in art class, when the boy begins painting, and then there is something other than a terrible, overwhelming emptiness.
A seven-page prologue (yes, prologue, not epilogue!) hints at a very new direction for the next instalment in this series which, let's remember, isn't called AMY but SPACE BOY.
Oh, and there's a criminal subplot so subtly hinted at that I was forever forgetting it existed.