This is a YA novel about a group of time travelers who return to the past (i.e., our present) to escape the 2090s, a time when the world has gotten wetter and hotter, and a plague spread by mosquitos has wiped out much of the population not already devastated by food shortages and massive starvation.
Prenna, 17, is one of those who came from the future four years earlier to Westchester County in New York. As Prenna stepped through the time vortex, she was spotted by Ethan Jarves, a year older than Prenna, who was dazzled by the sight of her. When she finally shows up in his school two years later, he immediately befriends her; he has never stopped thinking about her. But Prenna and her fellow immigrants have strict rules they have to swear to live by, the twelfth of which is:
“We must never, under any circumstances, develop a physically or emotionally intimate relationship with any person outside the Community.”
The ostensible reason for Rule Twelve is that the “Time Immigrants” believe they harbor the plague infection, and don’t want to spread it to “Time Natives.” Maybe they can even find a way to stop the environmental decay from happening. But that depends on whether the past can be changed, and on what steps the immigrants take to change it.
Prenna meets a mysterious figure also befriended by Ethan, “Ben Kenobi,” allegedly from her own time, who asks to speak to her alone. He tries to convince her that the Community, secretive and autocratic, has become more interested in domination and in living out their lives safely than in preventing the catastrophe to come. Kenobi tells Prenna he knows exactly when and where the ineluctable road to disaster started, and that she and Ethan must prevent it from happening.
But Prenna isn’t sure what to believe, and makes some huge mistakes out of fear and confusion. She’s not sure of anything except her feelings for Ethan. But will being with Ethan kill him?
Discussion: This book has features of the standard YA dystopia, with the world in danger, the evil adults, the stupid girl protagonist, the perfect boy, and their attraction to one another. Distinct from other books in this genre, however, there is no love triangle (thankfully), not all that much action, and a highly improbable ending in which a not-too-bright teen vanquishes all. I’m not sure if this is only the first of a trilogy, but it could be….
Published by Delacorte Press, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House, Inc., 2014