Shine Until Tomorrow

Book review by
Mary Eisenhart, Common Sense Media
Shine Until Tomorrow Book Poster Image
Lots of heart, silly time travel in divorce-themed tale.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Shine Until Tomorrow is cartoonishly packed with '60s icons, seen through the startled eyes of a kid from 40 years later who's trying not to tell her new friends what will happen to Jimi Hendrix in a few short years. It brings home realities that were commonplace then but unknown now, e.g. the draft that threatens to send a teen character to Vietnam and hangs over the head of all male teens, and pay phones that took coins. As one character exemplifies, conspiracy theories were big then, too. Cars don't have seatbelts, and AIDS hasn't happened yet.

Positive Messages

Accept the things you can't change, have empathy with the people who are failing you and why they're doing it, and fix the things you can. Having self-respect can see you through various situations. Seeing things from a new perspective can help you adapt.

Positive Role Models

An aggrieved, snarky 17-year-old in Marin County, Califonia, obsessed with her grades and getting into Yale, Mari discovers new dimensions to her life and character, overcoming numerous fears and phobias, when she's thrown into a crazy situation. Her resourceful determination to save the day leads her to lie through her teeth to her newfound friends "for their own good." Her split-up parents never have time for Mari between their demanding jobs and new romantic interests. Her mom responds to an obnoxious remark from Mari with "I went through nine years of fertility treatments for this abuse." Adding to the general toxicity is her photography teacher, who gives her an incomplete despite her having done all the work "because you can do better," setting all the crises in motion. The characters she meets in 1967 range from kindhearted, often naive teens to aggressive, macho sleazeballs. An old man who owns a camera shop in the Haight in 1967 befriends and protects her. 

Violence

Several scary situations, especially a loud, dark, pulsating party with a lot of intertwined bodies and no clear path to the exits, but no one comes to actual harm aside from the bike accident that sends Mari into the time warp.

Sex

In 2007, 17-year-old Mari has never kissed a boy. In 1967, there's an instant attraction between her and an older teen that soon has them romantically entangled and having (off-camera) sex, with comic confusion about references to AIDS. Back in the 21st century she quickly acquires a new boyfriend closely related to her past connection, and later breaks up with him and finds another. As the story opens, Mari is disgusted by her mom's plans to spend the weekend with her sleazy boyfriend in a "de-loox" hotel suite, and equally disgusted that her father has taken up with a girlfriend young enough to be his daughter. In 1967, she observes people "hooking up" at gatherings in the park and sees entagled bodies in the dark at an apparently orgiastic party. The couple who befriend her are constantly making out, and the teen woman is very pregnant. A teen character works in a scanty costume at a restaurant and is ogled by the customers. 

Language

Frequent "s--t" and variants. Multiple "f--k" and variants.

Consumerism

Mari's iPhone time-travels with her from 2007 to 1967, but it doesn't work. So does the old Leica film camera that used to belong to her grandfather. Scene-setting mentions of real-life car brands like Jeep and VW, and businesses like Wells Fargo and the Psychedelic Shop. Snarky remarks about Jerry Garcia's estate and Cherry Garcia ice cream.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

It's the Summer of Love and drugs are part of the scenery. Vendors hawk LSD on the street and pot smoke wafts everywhere. Janis Joplin is seen driving while swigging a bottle of Cold Duck sparkling wine. Mari notes that in her 21st century life she's tried pot a couple times but didn't like it, and her response to discovering that her parents were hippies is a sneering comment about drugs and free love. In 1967, when Mari (who's substance-free but very stressed by all the time travel) talks about being from the future, her concerned new friends gather around to ask who gave her drugs and tell her that she's "too young for that s--t." She finds herself at a wild, druggy, orgiastic party but makes her escape.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Shine Until Tomorrow, the first YA novel by Carla Malden (daughter of actor Karl Malden), is a time-travel fantasy that takes a snarky California 17-year-old of 2007 to the Haight-Ashbury in 1967 San Francisco just as the Summer of Love is unfolding. In keeping with the era and setting, strong language abounds (including "s--t," "f--k," and their variants) and drugs are part of the scenery (including pot and LSD), but the narrator and her friends don't partake in the drugs. Janis Joplin is seen driving while swigging a bottle of Cold Duck sparking wine. Teen characters have sex, and one is pregnant. Most of the adult characters are flawed and unappealing but eventually come through in a crisis. An elderly character in the past provides much-needed support. The time-travel plot is fairly preposterous, long on cliche and unlikely coincidence. But the writing is vivid and lively, and there's a lot of heart, determination, and emotional insight along the way.

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What's the story?

Back in elementary school, Tamara Caldwell started going by Mari because she was already sick of her classmates going "See you tomorrow, Tamara." As the title SHINE UNTIL TOMORROW (taken from the Beatles' 1968 song "Let It Be") suggests, the narrative riffing on Tamara/Tomorrow is about to kick into high gear, as it's now  2007 and 17-year-old Mari, rummaging uninvited through her mom's closet, discovers a 45 rpm single of a song called "Tamara Moonlight," which, it turns out, was "our song" for her now-divorced parents, the song she was named for and that became her infant lullaby. In the wake of the epic argument with her mom that follows, she storms out the door of her suburban Marin County, California, home, jumps on her bike, and hits the road -- only to crash into a tree avoiding an oncoming car, be knocked unconscious, and wake up in 1967.

Is it any good?

The time-travel plot is implausibly packed with convenient coincidence, but there's a lot of heart and relatable emotion in Carla Malden's tale of a 2007 teen plopped into the Summer of Love. Skeptical readers of Shine Until Tomorrow will wonder, for example, why nobody in 1967 seems to notice that they're getting currency from 2007, and why the city fathers of tony Kentfield in Marin County have ignored the presence of a wrecked hippie van by the side of the road for 40 years. But there's a lot of emotional insight, and the lively narrative captures quite a bit of the sheer overload of being a sheltered suburban teen landing on the corner of Haight and Ashbury in the spring of 1967.

And there are some great moments, as here, when narrator Mari expresses what it feels like to be a kid of divorce as she listens to the weasely answering machine message in which her dad is making it clear he doesn't want to see her because he'd rather hang with his much-younger girlfriend: "Between work and the new girlfriend, a good-sized crack has opened up in my dad's life -- turns out it's just the right size for me to fall into. That's the thing about divorce that parents don't get. Once they get together with a new significant other, you're just a satellite orbiting their shiny new planet. Doesn't mean they don't want to have you touch down every now and then, but if the timing doesn't work out just right for a link-up, there's always the next rotation."

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about time-travel aspect in Shine Until Tomorrow. Why are stories about a character who goes to another time, has adventures, and is transformed in some way so popular? What other time-travel stories do you like?

  • If, like Mari, you found yourself 40 years in the past, what would you find most difficult to deal with? What might be really great?

  • Do you have any older friends and family members who remember the Summer of Love? Have they told you any stories? Are they like the events in Shine Until Tomorrow, or completely different?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love stories about time travel and coping with divorce

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