Thursday, October 11, 2012

Review: Time Between Us

Tamara Ireland Stone
ARC from ALA Annual
Anna Greene, a nineties teen (1995, to be exact) stuck in the suburbs of Chicago, dreams of traveling to far-off places  after high school. When she falls for the new guy at school, she gets a chance for her wish to come true even sooner, but not in the way she'd imagined. Because the boy, Bennett Cooper, is a time traveler. And if not for a mistake in time, he wouldn't even be in 1995 -- instead he'd be at home in present-day (2012) San Francisco.

Time Between Us is the sort of book that just looks so full of promise. Romance, a nineties setting, and time travel -- what more could a 20-something female YA reader want? Well, in this particular case I did want more. Of everything. Let me state at the outset that I like this book. It's a nice mix of emotions, light sci-fi, and enjoyable romance. Anna Greene is no Mary Sue; she's smart, independent, and full of dreams for herself. Likewise Bennett Cooper is a wonderful mix of awkward and cute (and also my favorite character in the book). Their romance is cute, fairly predictable, and clean enough that I'd have no problem handing this book off to young teens.

The problem is that the book, at least in my opinion, lacks spark. I liked these characters, but never really really felt for them the way I like to feel for characters in stories. And while the time travel was set up nicely, with rules that guided it (I love when time travel has rules to it), the vast majority of the book takes place in 1995 and Anna's curiosity about the future -- hers and the rest of the world's -- never reaches the level that I'd assume it would. While she wants to go other places, she's oddly disinterested in discovering other times. Which brings me to another complaint, though I admit it's a superficial one: where are all the 90's references? I mean, this book takes place smack-dab in the middle of the decade, yet there are so few references to anything 90's that it's often easy to forget Anna's story doesn't take place in 2012. For adults reading the book out of nostalgia, this will be a let-down and for teens who are interested in the 90's setting, there's not a whole lot to latch onto.

It takes a while for Time Between Us to really take off and even when it does there's nothing earth-shattering in the way of plot twists or the stakes of the story, but it reminded me of The Future of Us in the way that it slowly, deliberately considered the effect that changing the past has on the future and how small decisions can cause a ripple effect across time and lives. Bennett is incredibly precise in his time travel and his interest in the butterfly effect were parts of the story that I absolutely loved and I wish they'd played a larger role, especially in the first half of the book. Anna's story is charming and definitely readable, but unfortunately never shot off into must-read status for me, though I know many others have disagreed.

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