It Wasn't Always Like This

280p. ebook available. Soho Teen. May 2016. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781616955885.
Gr 8 Up—Seventeen-year-olds Emma O'Neill and Charlie Ryan are immortal and in love forever. In 1913, they and all their family members, living together to jointly run a Florida nature museum, were tricked by a huckster into drinking a tealike potion concocted from the plants and waters of the elusive "fountain of youth," believing they were receiving a potential vaccine against polio instead. Eventually, when the fanatical leader of the local cultish Church of Light realizes that no one in either family is aging, even Emma's toddler brother, he declares them evil and burns their buildings to the ground. Only Emma and Charlie escape and hence survive, since burning is one method of killing immortals. After splitting up for safety, they elude resolute Church descendants through the decades until the present. Emma, who becomes a private investigator, follows trails of murder victims who look disturbingly like herself and Charlie. Charlie goes to war and adopts several identities. All the while, both try desperately to reconnect with the other. Told in third person with chapters set in decades past and present, the story holds convincing characters, a captivating plot with some twists, an aura of time travel, and an array of vivid settings that make it easy to suspend disbelief and accept the slightly pat yet satisfying ending.
VERDICT Teens who relished the classic Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt will revel in this tale with a related premise for older readers.

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