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Book Review: Step Back In Time

Plot:

How many lifetimes would you travel to find a love that lasts for ever?

When single career girl Jo-Jo steps onto a zebra crossing and gets hit by a car, she awakes to find herself in 1963. The fashion, the music, her job, even her romantic life: everything is different. And then it happens three more times, and Jo-Jo finds herself living a completely new life in the 1970s, 80s and 90s. The only people she can rely on are Harry and Ellie, two companions from 2013, and George, the owner of a second-hand record store.

If she’s ever to return from her travels, Jo-Jo must work out why she’s jumping through time like this. And if she does make it back, will her old life ever be the same again?

Review:

First of all, Rom-Com movie references to the best ones, to cute light house feel good reads, and now Beatle references? Is Ali reading my mind with her novels? Each novel has been perfect and this one is no exception.

In 2013 Jo-Jo McKenzie is an accountant, although she seems to have no real friends or life outside work. It appears she has spent most of her working life building up her business and is consequently a majorly successful career girl in London at the age of only 29 (how stereotypical for chick lit books!) and there is no time, or life, left over for her. Who is she, as a person? We don’t find much out about that, and I am not sure Jo-Jo herself even knows. Working on the books for Groovy Records, a retro record shop on the Kings Road, Jo-Jo likes the personal touch so takes the books back herself to chat with George, the owner, who she is very friendly with. Now, from page 15 I knew exactly how this story would end. But getting there could be a lot of fun…

Stepping outside, Jo-Jo is knocked down by a car on a zebra crossing right outside the Worlds’ End pub and here we get into Life on Mars territory. She wakes up in 1963 and lives an alternative life there with three people she has met in her 2013 life, in very different personas, along with some genuine 1960s music industry people who have a real influence on the future. She seems to really embrace 60s life and have a good time, which she doesn’t have any time for in her real 2013 existence. The one link to the time travel aspect – George, the record shop manager – knows what is going on, but doesn’t tell her why, other than giving her somewhat cryptic explanations. Jo-Jo has no sooner got into her new life than she gets whacked by a car again – waking up in 1977. She hasn’t done all she needed to in 1963 – which was not what she thought (attempting to prevent JFK getting shot) but rather to help people move on in life and make the most of their talents.

It is clear that Jo-Jo is back in time to learn a lesson, but what lesson, really? She seems to have led a very straight, ordered, planned and uneventful life so far, with no real mistakes to put right. This purpose, the whole core of the story, is never fully explained or explored. We also gallop through each retro segment very quickly without really leaving time to catch breath; the 1985 and 1994 elements seemed particularly rushed. Although Jo-Jo learns bite-sized lessons about the personalities of the different characters she meets in the various time periods, I am not clear how she puts this into practice in real life. My favourite time periods were the 60s in particular was superb.

The Beatles references, whilst fun, were overdone; however my major criticism is there are too many unforgiveable irregularities with dates – throughout the decades, actually. Jo-Jo and her friends are 16 in 1977 and Ellie dresses in tartan as homage to the Bay City Rollers, who were no longer making Top 10 singles by then. No 1977 teenage girl would have Donny Osmond on the wall for the same reasons – and surely silver platform boots went out in 1973? Jo-Jo and Harry go to see Star Wars just before the Queen’s Silver Jubilee celebrations in June. Except they wouldn’t have, as Star Wars wasn’t released in the UK until Christmas 1977. Ellie meets Neil Tennant just before Live Aid, although we had never heard of the Pet Shop Boys until the very end of 1985 when the remixed West End Girls charted. Nobody would have watched Friends in September 1994 as it didn’t air in the UK until April 1995. I have clearly learned something from my younger days and a bit of research! I would have expected more thorough research or at least a good editor to sort this out. This is a real shame. I think in many books with time travel themes the authors feel almost obliged to cram in as many retro and pop culture references as possible.

I really did enjoy this book. I love all things retro and vintage and have always fancied the idea of going back in time so it played to all my passions. As with most good chick lit books, it all comes together in the end, Jo-Jo gets some much needed “me” time, though I couldn’t help feeling that the ending was bittersweet, and I also felt it was rushed. Altogether, however, an exciting, fun, rollercoaster read that has cultural references that everyone 30 and above will recognise mainly, I’m under 30 and I recognise a good few of these. Highly recommended as always from this author.

4/5 Stars

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