December 8, 2023
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Book Reviews SCI-FI

Polly Isn’t Home by AJR Traill: Of powers, monsters and time travel

Author: AJR Traill

Genre: Science fiction

Year Published: 2023

Nerdection Rating:

“Nerdection Worth to Read”

Upon emerging from a portal and being thrust into the coolness of the night, a raven-haired Polly finds herself in the midst of the small desert settlement she calls home. Except it isn’t the home she has always known. Her father, Hector, can’t be found in what was once their family home. There is no record of her own existence to be found. Stranger still, a visit to Portal—a scientific research and experiment facility—reveals her mother, who had previously died giving birth to Polly, alive and well, thriving in her chosen career. Everything is wrong, and Polly has to work fast to untangle the threads of the confusing series of events at hand to save everyone in her town and beyond from the threat of what lies on the other side of the portals scientists out in the Australian bush—where her hometown lies—are tampering with.

Spoiler-free Plot

The moment she lands in the street, Polly’s senses warn her that something has gone terribly wrong. She recognizes where she is but cannot recall the events that led up to her unceremonious arrival in a flurry of purple tentacles and blinding white light, which she knows all too well.

A young man around her age named Austin offers to help her find the answers she requires. His mother, Lily, opens up her doors and embraces her with the motherly kindness Polly has only ever dreamt of.

For the sake of her own safety, Polly is less than forthcoming with her knowledge of the past and her own identity. The power she wields within would place an immovable target on herself if it was exposed. Caution must be exercised to avoid Polly finding herself the subject of live experimentation. Despite the feelings of guilt swirling within her as she interacts with Austin, Lily, and, most importantly, her own mother Anabelle, she continuously withholds any form of identifiable information with everyone… except Tanner.

Tanner, the wild-haired, mischievous girl whose face she witnessed in an otherworldly mirror in her own bedroom within her family home shortly after her arrival. Tanner, who lends herself to unapologetic trickery whenever the opportunity presents itself. Tanner, who has the same power as Polly does—bright white light, purple tentacles, the manipulation of time. She adopts the role of Polly’s confidant, Polly’s friend, yet something feels off about her too.

All the while, Polly embeds herself in Portal, working alongside her talented mother. Her education on the research carried out within the facility surpasses that of their principal scientists. While delving deeper into the intricacies of her scientific research, clues on the origin of the nightmarish creatures appearing out of thin air in the environs of their town, Hector’s whereabouts, and the nature of Polly’s powers begin to avail themselves one by one. Polly works diligently; however, someone or something seems to be one step ahead of her at every turn, determined to carry out their agenda at all costs.

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My Take On Polly Isn’t Home

At the very start of the Polly Isn’t Home, an undercurrent of weirdness snags the attention of the readers. The presentation of a handful of unanswered questions serves as the hook that reels us deeper into the plot. A direct beginning resonates with readers such as myself, as it eliminates the confusion that is often found in books within the same genre as Polly Isn’t Home.

Simply presenting the protagonist’s main dilemma and introducing most of the major characters earlier on is much appreciated over the alternative—a verbose showing of complicated philosophical, scientific, and mathematical theories that fly over the heads of many looking for a light, enjoyable read.

With that being said, some of the aforementioned specialized areas do creep up later on in the story, so as a caution to the enthusiastic readers among the crowd, be prepared for a quick Google search or two, which is all well worth it as it adds to the enrichment of the tale.

Polly Isn’t Home alternates between being a plot-driven and character-driven book. To highlight the characters who are, in my opinion, the most outstanding of the lot, I would first have to start with Hector, Polly’s father. Coming across such a conflicting character in literature is a rare occurrence. Everyone we encounter is viewed through Polly’s frame of thought. None stirs up as much conflict in the mind as Hector.

Witnessing the inner turmoil of a single character through the eyes of another is something to behold. When Polly feels fatherly love for him, so do we. But there is also so much to viscerally react to. His actions cement him as morally gray—straying closer towards bankruptcy—and it is heartbreaking to experience the loyalty and affection Polly expresses towards him, knowing what we, the readers, know about the dynamics of their relationship and the harsh manner Hector raised Polly.

To run through the outstanding components of the other characters’ personalities: Lily’s warmth is unparalleled, Austin’s dependability shines through all his interactions, Anabelle’s dedication is palpable through the pages. And Tanner’s rascal ways provoked the intended effect.

It was difficult to throw my trust behind her fully, even in the softer moments she shared with Polly. When she purposefully paints herself as the ingenue, right at the start of her strengthening her bond with Polly, that felt like a stroke of genius writing, which I very much applauded once I reached the point of revelation as to what her character’s motivations actually were.

If I were to pick at a single point—offer a minor criticism if I can even call it that—it would be that the story felt a little too short. I could’ve easily benefited from an extra one hundred pages to flesh out more from the interactions between several characters. If AJR Traill tacked on another hundred or so pages to this already thrilling story, I wouldn’t hesitate to read it all over again!

“Polly Isn’t Home offers a thrilling blend of science fiction and complex character dynamics, keeping readers on the edge of their seats throughout.”

Age Rating


Content Warning

Alcoholism, Violence, Verbal abuse, Emotional abuse, Psychological abuse.”

About The Author Of Polly Isn’t Home

AJR Traill resides in Melbourne, Australia. He takes great pride in his enormous collection of rare and obscure science fiction and horror movies. Polly Isn’t Home is the first in a series following the adventures of Polly West.

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