A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Flashback is the hefty (800+ pages) seventh volume in Shannon Messenger's Keeper of the Lost Cities series -- and far, far from anything resembling a conclusion. It has another cliffhanger ending and several tapestries' worth of dangling plot threads. As in previous volumes, the entire world is in peril. Kids suffer physical and mental violence, magical and otherwise, and grapple with the moral dilemmas of responding in kind. There's a lot of romantic angst as protagonist Sophie likes two boys, but nothing more than hugs and snuggling results. Among the multi-species bodyguards is a princess whose father has forced her to marry one of his warriors, while her ex is one of the bad guys. There are some cruelly dysfunctional families along with the kind ones. Also gross-out and bathroom humor, as the teens are always taking elvin medicine made from things like yeti pee. A beloved animal gives birth.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Memories, edited and otherwise, play a starring role in FLASHBACK, as 15-year-old genetically engineered elf Sophie Foster struggles with mental images from her past that she's been unable to confront as the conflict with the Neverseen escalates. Meanwhile, friend and love interest Keefe is grappling with his own lost recollections from a childhood where his arch-villainess mom sent him on errands that may be all too relevant to the cosmic conflict at hand -- which, as the book opens, puts Sophie and other love interest Fitz in the infirmary with life-threatening injuries.
Is it any good?
Elf teens face hardship and moral dilemmas en route to another cliffhanger in this series installment that's exciting but a bit frustrating. Hoping for a satisfying wrap-up of Shannon Messenger's elvin epic? You won't get it this time. But if you love the series for the sparkly world-building, the costume changes, the inner turmoil over romance and world-saving, and the likelihood that some previously unmentioned event or magical capability will emerge at just the right moment, you'll be happy with Flashback. If you love the interplay of dozens of intriguing but still largely undeveloped characters as they find themselves in challenging situations and squabble among themselves -- or work together to achieve some heroic, impossible goal -- ditto.
But if you're waiting for author Messenger to reveal, say, Sophie's biological parents (after a multi-volume tease), you'll be none the wiser after 848 pages. And that pesky love triangle? Still triangulating. If you're in this for something other than the immersion, you may be feeling a bit strung along and losing patience about now.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about stories like Flashback, where there aren't any really good choices, and the protagonist has to make difficult decisions anyway. Do you find this a relatable situation? What other stories do you know that explore this theme?
The issue of whether to use violence in response to your enemy's violence is a big part of the story in Flashback. Do you think it's OK to use violence in defense of yourself and your loved ones? What price do you think you might have to pay if you did?
How would you like to live in a society where some higher authority picked out your possible life partners for you, as happens among the elves? Would it make life simpler or be really creepy?
- Author: Shannon Messenger
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Adventures, Brothers and Sisters, Friendship, Misfits and Underdogs
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Aladdin
- Publication date: November 6, 2018
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 8 - 12
- Number of pages: 848
- Available on: Nook, Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: October 16, 2019
Our editors recommend
For kids who love fantasy and magic
Themes & Topics
Browse titles with similar subject matter.
Top advice and articles
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.