“Waterfall” by Lisa Bergren is a YA (Young Adult) novel about two teenage sisters who find a portal that transports them back in time to medieval Italy. Though I’m not typically a fan of time travel novels and it’s been a long time since I’ve read a YA book, I was thoroughly captivated by Gabi and Lia’s adventure in 1334 A.D. So captivated, that if I wasn’t in a reading challenge that needs 80 books set in different countries, I’d be more than happy to camp out in Italy with these gals for the whole River of Time Series!
I loved how Lisa Bergren nailed the whole “teenage attitude” thing. The way Gabi talked made the whole narrative feel realistic, and after a read through yourself, I think you’d agree that you hear most teens using the same phrases and thinking the same way. On the other hand, there’s a few twists in the story that made it really fun – Gabi has to learn to quickly adapt her modern day teenage swag with how society in the medieval world would speak and act, the first few tries were certainly entertaining! Overall, I think the author did a great job switching back and forth from times that Gabi would narrate in her head with the typical teenage talk to when she spoke to the other characters in the formal speech of that era. At the end of the book in the authors note, Bergren mentions how she had her daughters friends read the text for “believability” before publishing it, and I think you can definitely see the quality in how that advice created a character that really felt like a teenager.
However, the story isn’t all laughs and teenage drama. Gabi and Lia’s family recently suffered the death of their archaeologists father, and you can see how this affects their support of their mother’s work from the first chapter. Just a few pages in, Gabi asks the question in her head, “Had this site really been worth my dad’s life?” Their mom is kinda in her own world with the archaeological site, and the two girls seem to be on their own for the summer. Here, you pick up on a deeper theme that I think will reveal more of itself as the series goes on. Even from this first book, you could tell Gabi matures from being thrown into a different time period with different challenges. I loved how the author made this appear adventurous, in the “transported back in time” setting, yet, true when compared to real life situations. Maturing happens when you have to face something new and difficult in life, and Gabi and Lia most definitely experience that in “Waterfall.” I also liked how the author used the medieval setting to awaken faith in Gabi, who had not be raised in a church going family.
Conclusion: “Waterfall” was an amazing book! Easy to read, great characters and a suspenseful plot that kept me hooked till the end. (…and into the sneak peek of the second book at the end by the author’s notes. Couldn’t help myself!) This was the fifth book in my reading challenge, “Around The World In 80 Books,” and the setting in Italy was perfect. I would definitely recommend this book to friends, teens and anyone interested in a medieval Italian setting.