Mari Stratton attends a New Year's Eve party with her brother Randall and her hearing-impaired friend Lauren. A collecting game begins in the dark fields outside prior to the celebration countdown. When midnight strikes, Mari finds herself and four others propelled by a violent green storm into a confusing landscape of beauty, danger, and mystery.
In this place, ruthless black-cloaked riders on horseback called Shifters comb the countryside hunting them down. Why is this world patterned after the things Mari adores, and why does it feature the hideous things she fears the most?
More importantly--how will she and the others get back to the real world?
This novel is the first of a five-part series, with each book written from the viewpoint of one of the five main characters as the story progresses: Mari, Tony, Lauren, Randall, and Stefanie.
Body-swapping and genies and portals--oh my! I'm a writer of clean-read Young Adult fiction who lives in the beautiful green state of Oregon, USA. My sci-fi debut, THE BODY INSTITUTE, explores themes of body image and identity. Its sequel, SPARES, released January 2021.
I have a Studio Arts degree and I'm a longtime SCBWI member. You'll usually find me in my writing cave, surrounded by my dragon collection and the characters in my head. I enjoy reading--mostly young adult novels--as well as drawing, painting, and working jigsaw puzzles. I also enjoy music and dance of all kinds.
As Mari Stratton and her friend Lauren were searching the darkness for the golden balls they needed to find before midnight, the backyard shed seemed a good place to look. It was New Year’s Eve 2019 and the excitement was high at the noisy party they were attending. When they were joined by Stephanie, Tony and Mari’s brother Randall the five of them were alarmed when the bell sounded to warn it was nearing midnight. But as midnight struck, a wind storm of massive proportions surrounded them. Suddenly they were stumbling around in the darkness of a cave…
They had no idea where they were – the black and dangerous looking forest on one side; the green and lush landscape on the other. When they came across an old man with a few sheep at his small cottage, they asked his help – but the sound of horse riders had him bustling them behind his farm to hide. The men were cloaked in black and carrying guns – and they were after them! How was that even possible? How did they know?
The Shifters would leave no stone unturned until they located Mari and her friends – they must escape; they needed to discover how to return to their own world. But the dangers the five faced over the next few days was horrific – never had they imagined anything like this place. Could they escape? What would be their future if they didn’t?
The Portal is the first in the Junction 2020 series by Carol Riggs and I loved it! Thoroughly enjoyable, it was a fast paced and highly imaginative young adult fantasy story which I flew through. I’m really looking forward to book two in the series and have no hesitation in recommending The Portal highly.
With thanks to the author for my digital copy to read and review.
This YA story was an action-packed page turner from the very first moment. Mari and her friends attend a New Years Eve party in 2019 going on 2020. While on a treasure hunt, these five find themselves in a shed and are then transported to another land. The story unfolds as Mari tries to figure out where they are and how to return home. I've never read a story like this before. It was extremely unique and imaginative with subtle ways Mari grows and changes along her journey.
I LOVED this book! There were many times I felt as though I was right there in the scene with the well developed character Mari! This book was an absolute page turner and I was left guessing what would happen next. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys Sci Fi fantasy reads with an ending that leaves you wanting more and wondering what will happen next!
This is my light fantasy novel for young adults (and adults!) that I’ve always had a soft spot for. I wrote the original version of book 1 in the 1990s, revised and released it for a few friends and my mom in 2010, and now have revised it again in 2017. It used to be third person (Mari, she) and now it’s first person (I, me). I also changed it from past tense to present, which I find more immediate and gripping. The book is probably technically more of a novella, being under 55,000 words (246 pages).
Portals are in no way a fresh plot device, but the fun part was delving into each character’s inner dreams and nightmares—the building blocks that created each of these alternate worlds. Besides, I just love making stuff up and using my imagination; there's plenty of places for that in these books.
This novella is the first of a 5-part series, with each book written from the viewpoint of one of the five main characters as the story progresses: Mari, Tony, Lauren, Randall, and Stefanie.
The books are as follows: JUNCTION 2020: Book 1 The Portal JUNCTION 2020: Book 2 Nightmare Realization JUNCTION 2020: Book 3 Silent Scream JUNCTION 2020: Book 4 Future Terrors JUNCTION 2020: Book 5 Vanishing Fears
At the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve, 2019, adolescents Mari, her brother Randall, her best friend Lauren, her frenemy Stefanie, and Stefanie’s boyfriend Tony are sucked into a portal and transported to a world full of danger. They find they all bear the same brand, a mysterious symbol, on their arms. Mari soon discovers, much to her dismay, that the landscape of this world, and some of the nasties that inhabit it, are very familiar… namely, because they are creatures from straight out of her nightmares.
Read the rest of the review at Young Adult Books Central:
The Portal (Junction 2020) is an exciting fast-paced fantasy with just the right amount of darkness and light. Set in a fascinating world, the story has a unique plotline, twists and turns, adventure, action, and a strong main character. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and look forward to the sequel.
Mixing an intriguing variation on characters mysteriously transported to another world with an immediately recognisable portrayal of teenage brittleness, Riggs provides a decidedly young adult tale on the border of science-fiction and fantasy.
Mari Stratton doesn’t especially like Stephanie, but doesn’t dislike her enough to miss her New Year’s Eve Party. However, what starts as the typical mix of teenage posturing and petty squabbles turns serious when Mari, Stephanie, and several other party goers are sucked through a portal into a fantasy realm. Surrounded by a world that seems at turns familiar and incomprehensible, treated like a near slave, and pursued by ruthless, black-cloaked riders, how will Mari find her way home?
Riggs opens with several chapters of Mari preparing for the party, bickering with her brother, talking with her friend Lauren, and describing the mundane events of the party. Depending on each reader’s view on the daily struggles of teenage life, this will either draw them straight into Mari’s situation or start to feel a touch like a checklist of YA heroines.
Whichever way readers see this opening, it does create a pleasing contrast with the transition into another world and the subsequent oddities. Making good use of distrustful villagers and the constant pressure of pursuit, Riggs plausibly denies her characters both information and time for calm consideration; combined with first-person narration, this creates a picture of world and events that have an underlying coherence without either revealing the answer straight away or withholding evidence for the sake of it.
Although this struggle to understand is plausible for the characters, some readers might find the answers come too slowly to overcome their incredulity. Once revealed, the explanation for so much of the world seeming familiar to Mari makes sense, and has the added frisson of not being the obvious one; however, until this answer comes, the repeated similarities with things she’s read, seen, or dreamt challenges the sense the world is real rather than imagined.
While this novella does have a complete arc and does explain the most pressing questions, it also ends on an almost cliff-hanger with several large questions unanswered; as such, it might leave readers feeling that the story cuts off rather than offering closure.
Apart from the mysterious familiarity with parts of the world—something that increases Mari’s fear more often than it solves problems—Mari is very much not the chosen one; unlike many YA protagonists, she lacks exceptional physical or mental abilities, or unusual life experiences. This makes her struggle to overcome obstacles both more nerve-wracking and more plausible.
However, she does display the constant focus on her self-worth that teenage chosen one’s often possess. Without great beauty or other traits to give a lie to her doubt, this has less potential to irritate; however, some readers are likely to find her repeated thoughts about her father’s dismissive response to her life choices tedious.
The teenagers transported with Mari display an equal sense of being ordinary teenagers rather than individuals selected for their prowess. Unfortunately, Riggs does not really exploit this lack of experience: pampered teenagers seem to find peasant labour mildly tedious rather than exhausting; imprisonment in a dank cell without food has no effect on insouciance. While this book is Mari’s story—with later volumes said to follow another of the characters—the supporting cast display very little development across the narrative.
Overall, I enjoyed the concept behind the world greatly but found the characters a touch flat. I recommend it to readers who love young adult tales.
I received a free copy from the author with no obligation to review.
I received this YA fiction for an honest review from Book Tasters and this review was not influenced by the author or anyone and is purely my views.
This story has a very good arc of a fantasy fiction, where a set of normal next door teenagers gets transported suddenly into another world. Here these teenagers are not chosen for this task based on their powers or abilities. It happens just randomly.
The initial chapters start with introducing these teenagers (Mari, Randall, Stephanie, Toni, and Lauren), their petty squabbles, and their mindsets. They all get pulled into another world, while they are attending a party and playing a treasure hunt game.
The moment these teenagers enter another world, evil-looking black cloak riders start chasing them and they have to escape from the vampire spiders and acid mushrooms. But these teenagers are not equipped with any tools or weapons, except their wit and mental strength. Will they be able to escape from this unknown world back into their world?
Mari starts seeing repeated similarities in the events that keep happening. So will she able to find an answer to all their problems and also the exit pathway are the basic questions that drive the entire story.
The story ends at cliff hanger mode, leaving a lot of questions unanswered. Maybe that's the intent of the author to get the sequel out of this book. But none of the other characters were portrayed properly in this story so it's difficult for the readers to imagine what would happen next. So it kind of leaves the readers uncertain as to what would happen next.
Overall, I enjoyed this concept of transportation across worlds and how these normal teenagers are able to overcome the obstacles they haven't encountered before and returned back to the normal world. I would recommend it to readers who love young adult tales.
Disclaimer: I received a free copy in exchange for an honest review.
True confession: I’m not normally a huge fan of Young Adult fiction. I wasn’t a huge fan when I was a young adult. Many are rather preachy about their lessons, the characters frequently stock characters, and too much time is spent on teen crushes. However, the Junction 2020 series successfully rides the line between “Young Adult” and just “Fiction” and what a ride it is. The protagonists are teens, yes, but they’re well-drawn individuals, with good points and less impressive traits, just like real people. There are mysteries – where are we, how’d we get here, and will we, can we, get home – that are genuinely mysterious. The answers aren’t telegraphed by the author to spoil the surprises. There are good guys and bad guys, but the good ones aren’t entirely good and the bad aren’t all bad, and sometimes the reader isn’t certain who they should be rooting for. The world-building is excellent, the alternate dimension is both familiar and very alien, and as a result, very believable. Best of all, there are lessons for the protagonists to learn, but they aren’t ham-fisted and obvious. Mari, the main protagonist, and her friends have to think some to puzzle out the lessons, and so does the reader. The entire story is, more or less, an allegory of how we create our own situations, but again, you have to take the whole ride to arrive there. Overall, Junction 2020: The Portal is a five-star winner. Real and relatable characters, interesting depth, great world-building, and breathtaking adventure – it’s all there to enjoy.
This review was originally posted at https://bit.ly/3wUHuhi. Randall, Lauren, Tony, and Mari have gone to a New Year's Eve party at the popular Stefani's house. However, while playing a game to find ping pong balls the group of five finds themselves in another dimension that seems born of nightmares and things adored. There are vampire spiders and executioners who kill you if you break the ten pm curfew as well as music to match your mood. Not only do they need to find a way home, they need to do it before the shifters find them and do who knows what. If you were transported to a world that was literally made of your nightmares would you be able to face your greatest fears and save your companions in order to find a way back home? This is what Mari must face when confronted with this new reality. Personally, giving up the ability to dream doesn't seem like that big of a deal, but I don't see anything good coming from the shifter's in our world.
All in all, the book is an interesting YA read. There are character's who are more than they appear at first glace and others who may not be so bad after all. As this is book one in the series (of five books) I hope there are other adventures starring the other group member's nightmares in the future. Also, I hope that I am right in believing I have found Sanjen's uncle and in his identity. I can't promise I will be reading the others as my TBR list is already miles long, but it is a good read.
** I received a copy from the author in exchange for an honest review. **
First Impression: Traveling through time or dimensions is an intriguing prospect.
Characters: I found the characters to be a bit flat in this first installment. Although younger readers might relate to the young characters in The Portal, older readers may struggle with the lack of development.
World Building: Riggs shines once she pulls you from the real world into her imagination. This is the second book I've read, and she really has a masterful way of painting a picture.
Writing Style: Middle grade level and large print make this a quick and easy read.
What I Enjoyed: I'm addicted to the author's imagination! From beautiful music scapes to scary creatures, I can't wait to see what Riggs comes up with next.
Deal Benders: The books starts off with too many adjectives, which bothered me for some reason. I was also annoyed that the main character thought about her dad's poor opinion of women way too often. Along this line the main character thinks about her dreams relating to the portal world to the point of obvious. I think once or twice as foreshadowing would have been appropriate.
Overall Rating: 3 stars because I enjoyed the story, but would like to see some of the deal benders worked out in the second installment.
For Fans Of: His Dark Materials, The Chronicles of Narnia, Alice in Wonderland
This is the best book from Carol Riggs I have read so far. It took me a while to read it because I was still thinking too much of the book I read before it, so that has nothing to do with the book itself. This is a very nice story an a YA/teenager story a lot more interesting in the way of character relationship than most book in the genre that I have read recently. Here you have no stupid love triangle, nobody is confused about their feelings and there is no real love at first sight craziness, ok, maybe just one little part with some hormones taking the best of the heroine but she is 16 so what else would you expect. I have to say that it was a really refreshing read and I wish a lot more YA novel would actually build their character relationships in such a way. The world building is pretty amazing especially in it's originality and consistency. It actually teaches you more about the main character for this part of the series than any other book would. It takes from dungeons and dragons, and Narnia crossed with your worst nightmares and best dream ever.
I would recommend this book to anyone who likes adventures that go a little crazy.
After reading a heavy WWII story, I needed a fun and easy read. This was it! The Portal will be enjoyable for anyone from young tween to old granny. It was very fast-paced with lots of action.
I was intrigued by the idea of a world in another dimension created by our own nightmares. Who hasn’t had those monster dreams in their youth? Imagine waking up and finding your scariest fear right outside your door! Imagine running through a dark forest, fighting your way through the beasts you created!
This book is well written with realistic characters. It is in first person, which seems to quicken the action. The Portal is the first book in the five book Junction 2020 series. Each book will be written from the viewpoint of one of the five main characters.
Even though this story is full of evil and scary things, it is kept light—a great accomplishment—making it a fun, fast read. The Portal is a great story for Nana to share with her grandchild.
I really enjoyed this book and am going to start book two today.
Written from one character's point of view, this story take the reader on a sci-fi adventure to another land made up of dreams and nightmares. Mari and her best friend Lauren are invited to a party on New Year’s Eve 2019 and in the middle of a game, Stephanie, Tony and Mari’s brother Randall find themselves in the neighbor's shed. In the shed are strange triangular symbols, and it transports them to a land that is nothing like their world, and yet to Mari, somewhat familiar. Evil Shifters chase them and want to force the five to bring them back with them to their world. Will they escape??? What all will happen and will they be changed forevermore from their experiences? This is the question I had most on my mind as I read, and thanks to it being a series, I may or may not find out the answer to that one.
Good read for anyone 13 and up that enjoys teenage adventures and alternate universes.
Mari Stratton attends a New Year's Eve party in 2019 with her brother, Randall, and her friend, Lauren. They join a game in the fields outside right before the New Year’s countdown at midnight. But at the stroke of 12:00, something odd happens when Mari and four others end up somewhere else. Trying to get help, frightening black-cloaked riders on horseback called Shifters are already actively hunting them and the danger is palpable! They must figure out how to return to the “real” world they left behind.
This action-packed story line will keep the reader’s full attention as Mari and the others have to figure out a way to survive until they can find a way home. The story was very clever and kept the reader wondering where this strange place came from. Was it real? Was it built by someone’s imagination? Could they really die there? And what dangers will they meet? Grab your copy and follow them in this adventure!
I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. The story is unique and feels like a different take on the Wizard of Oz and Alice in Wonderland. I think the book starts off really strong and had me interested in reading more about the characters and the world they ended up in, but I was less interested in the story as it progressed.
The story might be written for a younger audience which for be why I struggled with some of the plot. I often pictured the main character as being 12 or 13 years old but in fact she's 16 or 17. I really enjoy reading books in which I can connect with the main character and I didn't feel that while reading this story.
I give the book 3 stars because the premise of the book is unique and the landscape in which most of the story takes place sounds interesting. I'll give the next book in the series a try to see how the story progresses.
It’s been a long time since I’ve read a YA that’s kept hooked. I had a heard time putting the phone down to stop reading and go to sleep, and when I did, I ended up dreaming about the story! Truly captivating! It’s about a group of teenagers (not all friends which adds a cool dynamic to the group) that suddenly find themselves in an alternate dimension created by people’s dreams and nightmares. There they find themselves separated and the main character finds herself having to face her worst fears in order to reunite the group and escape the horrible landscape. Don’t want to give too many details but as a 30 something year old, I found the book super interesting. I would recommend this for anyone over 14. Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book in exchange of an honest review through Booktasters.
The Portal (Junction 2020, #1) begins with Mari attending Stephanie’s NYE party with her best friend Lauren, and Mari’s older brother Randall. A hunt for prizes brings Mari, Lauren, Randall, Tony & Stephanie together in an old dusty shed. A shed that just so happens to have a portal to another dimension. Mari and her crew are transported into a nightmarish landscape. They spend a week trying to survive their new surroundings, and trying to find a way back home. Vampire spiders, snot rain, and a band of bounty hunters called “Shifters”, make up just a few of the nightmarish things you’ll encounter while reading The Portal (Junction 2020, #1) If you like YA sci fi/fantasy books, give this one a read. Perilous adventure awaits!
I was so impressed by this book. It’s been ages since I’ve been so engrossed in a book that I couldn’t put it down. I started reading before bed and ended up staying awake the whole night to finish it! The book is meant for a younger audience but it’s not cringey or juvenile. It’s action packed and emotional too! You really get attached to the characters and even though the book is shorter, I didn’t feel like the character development was lacking. The world is so descriptive and immersive that I didn’t have a hard time visualizing it at all. I was sucked right it from the very beginning. Another thing I really enjoyed was the plot for this book is so unique! It’s unlike anything I’ve ever read before! I absolutely loved this book and I would highly recommend it!
I received this book for free in exchange for a review.
Mari goes to a new year's eve party with her brother and friend. Later they start to play a game, whoever collects the most balls wins prizes. They think they hit the jackpot until they're all in another place. A place made of dreams and nightmares literally.....
Great plot! the story could use some work. I wasn't a fan of Mari, she came across annoying. Her brother Randall seems like a creep in the beginning. The only person I cared for was Tony. It was medium to fast pace. I don't understand why they're called shifters unless the author means when they move to different landscapes/dimensions. It only started getting interesting towards the end in my opinion.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
A fun, fast-paced book great for a vacation beach-read. The main character, Mari, is straight-forward and manages to inspire trust and secret-sharing from the people she meets in her adventures to protect herself and her friends.
Written in present tense, the quick dialogue and whimsical decision-making keeps the plot light even when the author delves into dark territory. There were times when I yearned for more meaty descriptions, but in keeping the focus narrowed and streamlined, I appreciated Mari's take without any fluff.
I did find myself sympathizing with the Shifters. I'll be interested to see how this series unfolds.
Imagine waking up to find your most terrifying nightmares have become your reality. This is the case for Mari and her unlikely group of unintentional travelling companions.
I had a little difficulty getting into the flow of this story, due I think to my wanting to get a bit deeper into understanding the characters at the start instead of just going with it to learn as the story went along. That and my dislike for a couple of the characters to begin with.
Once I settled in though I found it to be a really unique concept and an enjoyable read. I was left with questions so am jumping straight into book two.
It was interesting to have read this is 2020, being that this year has definitely been a roller coaster so far. Junction 2020 takes place on New Year’s Eve in 2019; at midnight, a group of teenagers are transported to another dimension. They don’t know why or how they ended up there, but they quickly find out that it’s a land of nightmares. The premise is very intriguing and the world-building is interesting; but the main character is somewhat basic. She doesn’t have many interesting qualities, but the plot is well thought out enough that the lack of characterization can sort of be ignored.
4.5 Stars. Imagine living in a world of your loveliest dreams and most frightening nightmares. Imagine not knowing how to get out of that with your sanity intact. Aside from the certain PTSD resulting from this, our heroine is learning the lessons of maturity - that words only hurt if you let them, that heartache over shallow males is a waste of time, that facing one’s fears will destroy them. A very fine read indeed.
Won this in a Goodreads giveaway. Pretty good fantasy about 5 teenagers who are propelled through a portal to a world of dreams and nightmares. Wish the characters had been more evenly developed - one of the teens had a good introduction but was barely in the story after they entered the new world and I kept forgetting about her.
I was quite intrigued with the blurb. It’s a quick and entertaining story of Mari, her brother Randall, and friends. It’s New Year’s Eve and they discover a portal out in the fields. Of course being curious they entered the portal and are brought to another realm. Thanks to Goodreads and author Carol Riggs for an ebook copy in exchange for my review.
This was a great read. I always say I'm not the biggest fantasy fan, however, when I do pick one to read, they're usually really good. And this one was no different. It's creative, fun, action packed and a page turner. I do like that the book is on the shorter side because it makes it an easy read. I'm looking forward to second one.