Fireflies be nice

The Time of the Fireflies - Kimberley Griffiths Little

I might’ve liked this book better if I was 30 years younger. Age and constant reading add experience, and what might’ve flied for a silly child doesn’t satisfy a mature reader.

The book starts well. The heroine, twelve-year-old Larissa, lives above an antique store with her parents, who own the store. When one of the ancient telephones for sale at the store suddenly rings, even though it’s not connected to anything, Larissa picks up the receiver. What she hears on that phone sends her on a journey of magic, time-travel, and self-discovery.

The story promises to be an engrossing escapade, but that promise fizzles out fast. The middle of the novel sags. Larissa is hurtled from one time period to another, witnessing tragic events in her family’s past without order or need. She hears every word of everything everyone says and sees everyone too, while they only notice her when it’s convenient for the plot. I don’t quite believe it.

The end is preachy, didactic in its insistent explanations of the obvious. The writer wants to make absolutely certain her message gets across, and like any qualified teacher, she repeats it several times, using different words. The technique is probably useful for teaching middle grades but it’s not suitable for storytelling.

Like the story, Larissa starts out as an interesting character, but her transformation along the story arch seems forced, more in line with a morality lesson than a work fiction. In the beginning, she behaves like a living girl, flawed but convincing. By the end, she becomes a goody-good, a teaching prop to demonstrate the writer’s point of view.

The writing is clean and professional, flowing effortlessly, and I read the story to its conclusion. I wanted to know how it ended, so that’s a plus. But I don’t think I want to read this writer again. I dislike being preached at.