In October 2011, a woman approaches a teenage boy she's met before, but he clearly doesn't know her. She hands him a note, hints that she knows his secret, and walks away. This brief prologue sets up the story in "Time Between Us," the debut novel of Tamara Ireland Stone.
The narrative jumps back to 1995, where Anna Greene—the woman from the prologue—is a teenager. While on a before-school jog, she sees a boy watching her and smiling. Later at her private school, she sees the same boy, Bennett Cooper—the boy from the prologue—and he doesn't recognize her. When he hears her name, however, there's a spark of recognition.
Bennett is the cute and mysterious new kid with a secret that Anna can't resist trying to uncover. He's drawn to her, but holds back. After saving Anna during a robbery while she's working in her father's bookstore, Bennett slowly reveals the truth: He can move backward and forward in time, though only within his lifetime. Bennett has traveled from 2012 San Francisco (where he's a teenager) back to 1995 Chicago (where he's an infant) to wait for his sister, whom he "lost" when he attempted to travel with her to 1993 to attend a Pearl Jam concert. Since Bennett was born in 1995, he must wait in 1995 for his sister to catch up with him.
Bennett emphasizes that in his time traveling, he never stays in one place for too long, and time seems to want to draw him back to his present where he belongs. He'll remain in 1995 only long enough to meet up with his sister. This sets up a "ticking clock" and adds low-level tension to the narrative.
As readers progress through the story, they might ponder the paradoxes. Anna's best friend, Emma, and her boyfriend are injured in a car accident. Is it cheating fate to go back in time and prevent the accident? Anna learns in 1995 that she gave (or will give) Bennett the note in 2011. If Anna does something different this time around, will it change her future? If future events already happened, how can they be changed in the past?
I'm drawn to time-travel stories. The idea that we can perceive a fourth dimension, and move fast enough through it to leap years forward or backward, is fascinating. But the time travel aspect of this story is secondary to the romance. Then again, romance is what appeals to the typical reader of trendy young adult novels. People who've read "The Time Traveler's Wife" likely will make comparisons to "Time Between Us." While the former offered a somewhat coherent reason for the time traveling "disease" (Chrono-Displacement), the latter offers a less coherent reason why Bennett is able to leap through time and space.
I was pleased, however, that this story lacked the kind of love triangle typically found in young adult novels with female protagonists, in which two equally appealing boys compete for the affections of that one special or "ordinary" girl, and she's torn between them. In this novel, though Anna's friend Justin also likes her, he's not a big part of the story, stands no chance against the time-traveling, shaggy-haired Bennett, and soon finds other distractions (at least in one version of events).
The novel is 384 pages, but it was a quick read for me. It doesn't contain sex or profanity, but in one scene, the couple spends the night together waiting for a sunrise. The time traveling plot device is a fuzzy backdrop for the romance, so readers looking for stronger science fiction will have to read a different book. Those who like dreamy romantic stories, however, will appreciate the novel's love-transcends-time theme.
Image copyright Hyperion. Review copy supplied by the publisher.
La Shawn Barber is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in the Christian Research Journal, Christianity Today, Washington Examiner, and other publications. Visit her blog at http://lashawnbarber.com.
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