Review Detail

Middle Grade Fiction 110
Don't We All Want a Second Chance?
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Noah Nicholson has an absolutely disastrous day when he has to give a speech for the class president election at East Hills Middle School in Albany, New York. He has a plan. A good plan. It involves becoming class president, doing well on the bowling team, going to Harvard like his older brother Paul, and becoming a college professor of physics. His parents are co chairs in a university science department, so there is a definite trend toward embracing academia. However, he's not doing well in math, and his pants rip when he stands to give his speech. He panics and runs off staging, giving everyone a glimpse of his pink underwear. This horrifies him. He tries to get over it, but keeps seeing someone who looks just like him hanging around town. When his doppelganger knocks on his window late at night, he finds out the truth. His parents, inspired by a new blender, have invented a time machine, and he's traveled from eight days in the future to try to help himself avoid his mistakes. His future self, who helpfully suggests he be called "Future", which certainly makes things much easier, has some odd suggestions, like making Noah learn to drink tea. He wants to help Noah win the election, and has a plan to make him more popular that involves an afternoon detention picking up trash with the popular kids. Future manages to engineer a meeting with Noah's crush, Lucy Martinez, at a tea shop, so the tip about tea was a good one. Noah doesn't break the blender, so the family doesn't need a new one, and efforts have to be made to change this so that time travel will be invented. This happens, and the resultant machine involves a computer and a claw foot bathtub, very similar to Welford's in Time Traveling with a Hamster. Noah is subjected to all sorts of embarassing things, like showing up in a lime green tuxedo to play basketball, but in the end, he finds out that this is the twentieth time Future has tried to fix the day. When Paul comes home from Harvard, having dropped out, Noah must reassess his life. Is it worth traveling through time to be perfect, or should he take what life gives him and make it work?

Good Points
Noah's math teacher, Ms. Tucker, was my favorite part of this book, and she's a great teacher who understands students well. It's so common for students to try to stay in advanced classes for which they are not developmentally ready because they have friends or older siblings who have taken the classes. Ms. Tucker tries to let Noah know that it's okay not to be brilliant in math; it doesn't mean the rest of his life will be ruined. I wish more of my students had life plans, although not as rigourous as Noah's perhaps. Bowling was my sport in middle school, so it was fun to see that represented here. The nascent romance with Lucy is a nice addition, and the detail about Noah learning to like tea is so true to life. This is a fun, goofy look at attempts to change one's life course, even when it ends up being unnecessary.

Don't we all wish that we could go back and change parts of our lives? Even though this is a funny book, it does make an important point that life, no matter how much we try to plan it, will never be perfect. Most of the time, we just have to accept what comes and move on, even if it involves exposing our underwear to the world!

I liked this even better than Borba's goofy The Midnight Brigade or thoughtful Outside Nowhere, and it's a great addition to humorous speculative fiction titles like Thayer's The Double Life of Danny Day, Lubar's The Emperor of the Universe series, or Thompson's The Day I Was Erased.
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