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Reviewed by Kenneth Salzmann for Readers' Favorite
Carla Malden’s novel Shine Until Tomorrow may be written for and aimed at a young adult audience—and it will certainly find an enthusiastic reception from readers in that demographic—but its charm, humor, and wisdom should make it an enjoyable coming-of-age story for many older readers as well. Protagonist Mari is a rising high school senior in an affluent twenty-first century Marin County suburb, single-minded in her pursuit of getting into Yale University at the same time she navigates the sometimes treacherous waters of high school social divisions, her parents’ divorce, and other familiar teen trials. But Mari’s carefully constructed world changes dramatically when a spat with her mother sends her pedaling her bicycle furiously through the pounding rain. The inevitable crash leaves her with not only a nasty knock on her head but also traveling through time—across the Golden Gate Bridge and into 1960s San Francisco.
Mari’s ensuing adventures land her squarely at the center of hippiedom during the Summer of Love, in a world without iPhones or the other trappings of contemporary affluence, but with perhaps some lessons to teach a latter-day teen obsessed with perfection. Throughout Shine Until Tomorrow, author Carla Malden’s voice is pitch-perfect, both in her rendering of Mari, the first-person narrator, and in painting the diverse array of characters that surround her. I think it’s notable that Malden is able to avoid the obvious trap of turning either the hippies or today’s teens into caricatures and to find the humanity in each character. In the same way, Malden, whose Amazon bio reveals that she is the daughter of the famed actor Karl Malden and an established screenwriter, shows a flawless command of her story, holding the reader’s attention at every step as Mari struggles to find her way back to her own time and into her future, enriched by her brush with the past. It was a journey I thoroughly enjoyed.