cover image The Red Thread: A Novel in Three Incarnations

The Red Thread: A Novel in Three Incarnations

Roderick Townley, . . Atheneum/Jackson, $17.99 (292pp) ISBN 978-1-4169-2930-7

New Hampshire teen Dana Landgrave enters counseling with creepy Dr. Sprague, who repeatedly hypnotizes her in an attempt to find the cause of her eerily real nightmare, in which a boy is being crushed to death by an altar stone. Over the course of these sessions, Dana uncovers "a direct pipeline to two former incarnations," a 16th-century tapestry designer, and an 18th-century painter's assistant. In both cases, what she uncovers about her past behavior disturbs and confuses her. "I don't know who I am anymore, and I'm afraid to find out," she admits. The modern Dana is no jewel—hostile and mouthy, she continually pushes her dreamboat boyfriend, Chase, away—but the real problem here is that the plot is too contrived to be believed. When not only Sprague but also the demonic yearbook editor who took credit for Dana's photographs turn out to be antagonists in her past lives, Dana asks, "What were the chances?" and readers will, too. Coincidences put Dana in London (her home in a past life) for the summer, and lead her to an open-air market where she finds a 16th-century locket that belonged to one of her former selves and that contains a portrait of the boy in her dreams. Townley (The Great Good Thing ) raises an intriguing question about the nature of the soul—is it "real, a permanent self that carried over from life to life," Dana wonders—but his characters don't explore it. Ages 12-up. (Mar.)