This is a YA time travel story, unique in that the narration not only alternates between the same characters, but between their past and present selves. What is also different about this time travel story is that the future versions of people can interact with the past versions. Em and her boyfriend Finn go back to the past to kill James, who is Em’s first love and Finn’s best friend. And the future James goes back to prevent it.
As the book begins, Em and Finn are in separate prison cells, getting tortured regularly. They need to figure out how to escape and go back to the past to stop all this from happening. They have apparently tried before: Em has left herself a note explaining that she has escaped thirteen previous times, and failed. This time, she says to her future self in the note, “You have to kill him.”
Presumably, this note instructs her to kill James, but this will be especially tricky because it was James who invented time travel. Also, none of the previous efforts by Em and Finn, in which they took actions that should have changed the future, actually did change anything. So there are a number of paradoxes that might cause Einstein to shudder.
Moreover, in spite of the fact that James has turned into a monster, Em has difficulty killing him. Em is well aware of the hell the world has turned into because of James. She has been tortured repeatedly. Finn is tortured as well when Em won’t answer questions, and Em has to listen to his screams. She even allowed a good man to get killed once in the past, to enable her to escape. So I don’t quite get her reluctance to pull the trigger with James.
I also could make a complaint about the tired triangle trope, with childhood-friend versus friend’s-best-friend-you-think-you-hate-but-then-realize-you-love. And both of them are doing ear tucks to Em! (The author doesn’t even bother to change the phrasing much. Twice, “[he] tucks a loose strand of hair behind my ear.” In a third instance, “[he] tucks a strand of hair behind my ears.” Presumably, it, too, was loose….)
Nevertheless, this story certainly kept me turning the pages, even if I’m not sure I bought all the plot premises.
Discussion: This book has been very well received, and I agree it has a terrific level of tension and suspense, but some of the premises just didn’t gel for me. Of course, a sequel is planned.
Published by Hyperion, an imprint of Disney Book Group, 2013.