In 2015, Jillian is suffering through brutal bullying in her suburban New York middle school, led by a cruel girl named Jessica Manning, better known as Maddie. The emotional agony is so severe that she suffers stomach pain, comes home every afternoon in tears, and begs her parents not to force her back to school. After the intervention of a therapist and the school administration don’t help, her parents send her to Crest International School, the Vietnamese boarding academy her mother attended as a teen, although it relocated to Malaysia in 1965 as the war edged too close for safety.
She’s happy at the school and makes friends with her three roommates … until one day, as she’s crossing campus, Maddie steps from behind a tree and taunts Jillian again. She panics, wondering how the bully found her and fights anxiety for the rest of the afternoon.
One night a storm blows in, and Jillian suggests to her roommates that they watch the storm from the sea wall until the rain starts. But as the sky grows ominously dark and the wind picks up, the girls decide to make an early exit and run for their dorm. They fight against the wind, darkness, and rain, but finally make it to their room … where they discover they’ve stepped back 50 years to 1965.
This is a significant year for Jillian, because that September, her Grandpa Dan, a missionary doctor, was kidnapped by the Viet Cong and never seen again. She feels she’s been sent back on a mission to warn her grandfather, and although her roommates aren’t happy to be in 1965, they promise to support Jillian in her quest. But what excites her the most is the prospect of meeting her mother, Beth, who’s the same age in 1965 as Jillian is in 2015.
History follows an identical path until Jillian needs medical care in a town several hours away by train. She knows her grandparents are stationed nearby and ponders how she’ll manage to meet and warn Grandpa Dan, as well as convince him she’s not crazy. As the journey grows more difficult, she wonders despairingly if she’ll find her grandfather or make it back to 2015, but she also realizes she’s defeated the fears that crippled her in New York and now have no power in her new life.
Jillian Dangerous lives up to her nickname as she struggles fifty years in the past to reunite her family, facing down pain and fear to pursue her mission. She’s a twelve-year-old to hold in high regard.