Locked in Time

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Locked in Time
Cover of the book, showing a girl staring to the side with a white mansion in the background
First edition cover
Author Lois Duncan
Cover artist Derek James
Country United States
Language English
Genre Suspense, young adult literature
Publisher Little, Brown
Publication date
April 1985
Media type Print (hardcover & paperback)
Pages 210 (first edition)
ISBN 0-316-19555-3 (first edition)
OCLC 11623085
LC Class PZ7.D9117 Lo 1985

Locked in Time is a 1985 suspense novel by Lois Duncan. The story centers around Nore, a seventeen-year-old girl who moves into a new home during the summer with her father Chuck, stepmother Lisette, stepbrother Gabe, and stepsister Josie. Soon after she meets her stepmother, stepbrother, and stepsister for the first time, Nore begins to suspect something is not quite right about her stepfamily and later discovers they never age. Duncan says she developed the idea for the novel when one of her daughters was thirteen years old and was having issues with her body image. Duncan says her daughter was "taking everything out" on her, and she began to wonder what it would be like if her daughter never outgrew her adolescence.

The novel won several awards and honors including the 1988 South Carolina Young Adult Book Award, the 1989 Nevada Young Readers' Award, and the 1989–1990 Tennessee Volunteer State Book Award. In 2011, Locked in Time was reissued with updates to modernize the content. An audiobook based on the modernized text was released the same year.


Seventeen-year-old Nore Robbins is staying with her father Chuck, stepmother Lisette Bergé, stepbrother Gabe, and stepsister Josie at their Louisiana plantation. Nore's father recently remarried after her mother died less than a year ago, and this was her first time meeting her stepmother, stepbrother, and stepsister. During her time there, she notices unusual behavior from her new family. During dinner her first evening, Josie mentions she was in Hartford when the Ringling Circus tent caught fire. Nore finds this odd considering Josie was a teenager and the event occurred four decades ago.[note 1] A woman at the supermarket, Elaine Shannon, thought she recognized Lisette from twenty years ago, but Lisette says that she must be thinking of her mother who Lisette stated had the same name. Nore was puzzled by this statement because Bergé was not her maiden name, but a name she obtained from a previous marriage.

One day, Lisette tells Nore that Gabe invited her to go on one of his fishing trips. While out in the river, Gabe crashes the boat into a floating log and Nore falls into the water. Nore, who cannot swim, manages to grab onto a floating log and make her way back to land. Nore tries to tell her father that Gabe drove the boat into the log on purpose and left her there, but her father attributes it to an accident. While Nore is looking for evidence that might convince her father something is not right about the new family, she finds a very old picture of Lisette, Josie, and Gabe who looked the same as they do presently apart from their clothing and hairstyle.

Nore recalls having a conversation with Dave Parlange, who worked on the roof for her summer home, in which he tells her he knew someone named Charlie Lacouture who used to work there during the 1930s. Dave drives her to Charlie's house so she can learn more about the Bergé family. He tells them a family passed the house down to their daughter as a wedding gift when she married Henri Bergé. He says Henri and his wife died in the 1920s and their granddaughter moved back with her children during the Great Depression, after which he was hired there. He mentions that the woman valued her privacy and kept papers and private materials in a padlocked cabin. To account for her new family’s unusual behavior and the information she has gathered, Nore suspects that her stepfamily does not age and that the padlocked cabin could hold important clues. Nore and Dave agree to meet at around six the next day to discuss their next steps.

During the night, Nore sneaks into Lisette's room and grabs her keys to get into the cabin. There, she finds marriage certificates detailing Lisette's six previous marriages, and a journal entry in which Lisette discusses confronting a woman Henri Bergé was having an affair with. The woman offers Lisette eternal youth in exchange for her husband's company, and Lisette agrees on the condition her children join her as she does not want to outlive her children. Nore takes the marriage certificates and journal back to her room, but not before one of the family members sees her. Later that day, Nore's father is preparing for a business trip to New York. While she has left her room to try to convince her father of some of her discoveries, one of the family members takes the evidence she has gathered. After Nore is unable to produce the evidence, Lisette drives Nore's father to the airport.

Before Dave and Nore are to meet up, Nore runs up to the gate to the house, but notices that it is padlocked. She develops a plan to climb a dovecote and jump off the fence, but decides to gather evidence of some of her discoveries from the cabin first. However, Gabe is inside the cabin waiting for her. Gabe blocks Nore off from leaving, but Dave, who had gotten over the gate by jumping off his car, barges in. Dave forces Gabe to go out and ask his mother for the key to the padlocked gate, but Lisette is outside the cabin waiting with a gun. Dave and Nore are locked in the cabin, and the cabin is set on fire. They are saved by Josie, who was given the keys to the cabin by Gabe. Gabe told Josie he and their mother were driving out to get the fire department, and he gave Josie the keys to let Dave and Nore out of the cabin after he has left with his mother. However, Gabe missed a curve on the road and crashed the car into a tree. After the ordeal, the plantation was sold to the state of Louisiana to be converted into a historical museum. Josie moves in with Nore and Chuck at their New York home.


Locked in Time was first published in April 1985 by Little, Brown and Company in hardcover.[1] Duncan came up with the idea for the plot when one of her daughters was thirteen years old and was having issues with her body image. She says her daughter was "taking everything out" on her, and although Duncan told herself that her daughter would grow out of this stage of her life, Duncan began to wonder what would happen if her daughter never outgrew her adolescence.[2]

In October 2011, the novel was reissued by Little, Brown in paperback with changes to modernize some of the content.[3] Duncan stated the novel was easier to update than some of the other novels that were given the same treatment because much of the story was based on historical information, which does not change. She also says the story's setting, an isolated house "where people were not being exposed to the everyday life that teenagers know now" meant she did not have to make as many updates to the story.[2] A 2011 audiobook, narrated by Jaselyn Blanchard, was published by Hachette Audio with the modernized text. Charli Osborne from the School Library Journal thought that the narrator "does a fine job with the soft Louisiana accents, giving each character a unique voice."[4]

Major themes[edit]

The story's teenaged protagonist, Nore, must deal with her mother's death, her father's re-marriage, and the new stepmother, stepbrother, and stepsister. Nore also has dreams that include warnings from her deceased mother. Nore ignores the warning but strange things happen, and her curiosity leads to the discovery of a terrible secret. Characters in the novel must deal with the concepts of aging, death, eternal youth and everlasting life.[5]


Locked in Time was nominated for an Edgar Award for the Best Juvenile work in 1986.[6] In 1988, it won the South Carolina Young Adult Book Award,[7] and the year after it won the Nevada Young Readers' Award in the Young Adult category.[8] It also won the 1989–1990 Tennessee Volunteer State Book Award in the grade 10–12 category.[9] In 1999, the novel was selected as a Popular Paperback for Young Adults by the American Library Association.[10]

Several reviewers discussed the writing style of the novel. Betsy Hearne and Zena Sutherland of the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books commented that the novel's "writing style is smooth," and the characters are strongly developed. They stated the plot skillfully blends fantasy and realism, and has "excellent pace and momentum".[11] Sarah Hayes from The Times Literary Supplement did not feel the novel was "particularly stylish or complex: just readable, compelling, and very frightening."[12] Kirkus Reviews's Leila Roy thought Nore's narration, which she stated was overdramatic and written more from the perspective of a senior than a teenager, did not stop the novel from being entertaining.[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ In the 2011 reissue (ISBN 0-316-09902-3), this event occurred six decades ago.


  1. ^ Gabbard Fugate, Carolyn (November 1985). "Locked in Time". School Library Journal. 32 (3): 96 – via EBSCOhost. 
  2. ^ a b Duncan, Lois (October 2011). "Q&A with the Author". Locked in Time (eBook). Little, Brown and Company. ISBN 978-0-316-19132-6. 
  3. ^ Lodge, Sally (September 23, 2010). "Lois Duncan Thrillers Get an Update". Publishers Weekly. Retrieved April 28, 2017. 
  4. ^ Oscborne, Charli (March 2012). "Locked in Time". School Library Journal. 58 (3): 81 – via Academic OneFile. 
  5. ^ "Teacher Guides". Author's site. Retrieved 2007-03-16. 
  6. ^ "Category List – Best Juvenile". Mystery Writers of America. Retrieved April 27, 2017. 
  7. ^ "Young Adult Book Award Resources". South Carolina Association of School Librarians. Retrieved April 27, 2017. 
  8. ^ "Nevada Young Readers' Award Past Winners". Nevada Library Association. Retrieved April 27, 2017. 
  9. ^ "Volunteer State Book Award" (PDF). Tennessee Association of School Librarians. Retrieved April 27, 2017. 
  10. ^ "1999 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults". Young Adult Library Services Association. Retrieved April 27, 2017. 
  11. ^ Hearne, Betsy; Sutherland, Zena (September 1985). "New Titles for Children and Young People" (PDF). Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books. 39 (1): 6. Retrieved April 27, 2017. 
  12. ^ Hayes, Sarah (May 9, 1986). "Front-preservers". The Times Literary Supplement (4336): 514 – via Times Literary Supplement Historical Archive. 
  13. ^ Roy, Leila (October 31, 2011). "A Trip Back to 'Locked in Time'". Kirkus Reviews. Retrieved April 27, 2017. 

External links[edit]