Author: Julie Cross
Genre: YA time travel
Length: 352 pages
Read: January 23, 2012
Summary: Great fast paced debut
This new YA time travel novel has a bit of buzz (I see it on many of the book blogs I troll looking for candidates to review The Darkening Dream), but I read it — and quickly — because of the superficial similarities to my second novel, Untimed. Both are YA time travel, both have a male protagonist (although he’s a 19 year old in this book, and 15 in mine).
But that’s about where the similarity ends. Although don’t get me wrong, Tempest is a great book (even if Untimed is better!). It’s one of the best YA’s I’ve read in the last year or so, on par with Before I Fall. The beginning is slightly awkward although the 1st person past voice is good. The author’s “I’m a time traveling teen intro” felt slightly forced, but as soon as he’s attacked by mysterious secret agent dudes and forced back from 2009 to 2007 (maybe 10% in) the book rocks along and I read the whole thing in a single sitting. Overall it nicely balances an interesting new scenario, likable characters, a compelling romance, a good mystery, and a touch of pathos. Good stuff.
Tempest borrows lightly from the brilliant The Time Traveler’s Wife too, and while it has a novel take on time travel it’s really more of an action mystery, and most importantly a romance. Untimed on the other hand, which is even heavier on the action, and has a romance (less emphasized), really focuses on the history part of time travel. I visit four centuries, all heavily researched, and explore the big impact individual people can have on the broad sweep of history. Tempest sticks mostly to the personal. The things that change in this novel are all of an intimate nature, having to do with the protagonist and his family. Namely the author is a woman and its all about the relationships: Jackson and his girlfriend, his father, his best friend, and his sister. Not that this is bad, as these relationships are really well done, its just different. The time travel action is confined mostly to a couple years back and is rarely intricate, avoiding most overlap and paradox. All the material stuff occurs between 2007 and 2009 with only a few touristic visits to the decade prior. It’s mostly all in New York city.
This leaves a lot of time to focus on the Jackson / Holly romance. We see it in three modes: as it existed before the novel opens, as he recreates it two years earlier from scratch in alternate 2007, and as he upgrades it on his return. As I said, this is a nicely done romance and really the core of the novel. Both characters felt natural to me, their passion genuine, young, and hopeful. Two major elements interjected a top fight bittersweet note: the problematic nature of a time traveler / normal romance and Jackson’s relationship with his dead twin sister (which because of time travel, lingers on, just a bit).
The mystery element was also good. The book succeeds in NOT revealing exactly what is really going on with the time travelers and even which of two (or even possibly three) factions is actually in the right. This is something I also tried to do in Untimed, and works pretty well here, even if the whole “secret agent” thing and nomenclature of “Enemies of Time” is a bit cheesy. Essentially Cross pulls it off. But the villains are nowhere near as cool as my Tick-Tocks
And I totally wanted to keep reading. But because of the lame pacing of the traditional publishing system we have to wait a year for the sequel!