There is life and there is death, In life, Peter lives in an average middle-class home, but he attends a school that has programs for eleven and twelve-year-olds that many other schools would lack, such as art classes, after-school sports, and letter jackets for athletes. Even so, the homework and tests are common ones. At home, Peter's artistic interests grate on his father, who works as a printer, and his mother, who has a practical attitude acquired from her upbringing on a farm. The parents' irritation with their whiney son and Peter's belief that they just do not understand him may be found in many families and among many children.
Death is uncomfortable for Peter: "I missed everything. I even missed stupid ordinary things I'd never thought about, like the taste of toothpaste. I wanted my teeth back, I wanted my body back, I wanted my life back," says Peter. Bodiless, Peter is nonetheless able to hear what people say about him during his funeral, how his death was his own fault for acting without thinking. There is also a disembodied voice that tells him that he has a chance to fix his life, to change so that he does not die. Peter is not good at paying attention, and he dies twice more before actually paying attention to what the voice tells him. Yet, Peter is no quitter. Instead of giving up and journeying up the light that he is in after he dies, he struggles with himself, learning that in life he must think about the needs of others as well as about his own desires if he is to be happy.
If someone wanted to learn how to write a novel, Rewind would offer some valuable lessons. The task Sleator faces in Rewind is a difficult one. He is not writing a breathlessly paced adventure; he is writing a character study, not the sort of book readers will generally pick up for a casual read. On the other hand, the premise is interesting enough to tempt readers—time rewound over and over again as Peter tries to rework himself so that he survives the night he presents his puppet show to his parents. This idea catches the reader's attention, particularly the line that begins the novel: "At my funeral, everybody said it was a shame I had to die that way." First sentences such as this rarely pop into a writer's head; novelists often spend hours, even days trying to create a first sentence that will attract interest and cut to the essence of the action. The sentence Sleator creates captures interest and entices the reader to go beyond the first page. Why is the narrator at his own funeral? How did he die that was such a shame? The rest of the novel builds on this opening.
The disembodied voice is introduced, and it sets limits on Peter. Can he devise a way to live before his time is up? His first failure arrives early in the narrative, making it plain that saving himself will be a very difficult task for Peter. Sleator structures Peter's efforts in three movements, with the first two ending in Peter's death. It seems as if the universe is out to get Peter. He prevents one automobile from working only to be run over by another; he avoids running into the street, staying instead on the sidewalk, and is run over by a truck that veers at him. These events heighten the tension in the novel; Sleator's themes may be about coming of age, but the tension is what generally holds a reader's interest. During the first two movements, Sleator even explains what he is doing, using Eloise as his mouthpiece. "Realistic details are what make people believe things they find hard to believe," she tells Peter. An alert reader will note that Rewind itself is grounded in realistic details, from the emotional life of Peter to his schoolwork. These mundane details anchor the "magic" in action that most people would recognize.
Rewind is a coming-of-age story, which means it focuses on one particular event that marks a person's...
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