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Release Date
September 17, 2024
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Henry, Frances, and Lukas are neighbors, and they used to be best friends. But in middle school Frances got emo, Lukas went to private school, and Henry just felt left behind. When they come together again for the funeral of a pet gerbil, the three ex-friends make a mindblowing discovery: a radio, buried in Henry’s backyard, that allows them to talk to another group of kids in the same town...in the same backyard...eighty years in the past. The kids in 1944 want to know about the future: Are there laser guns? Flying cars? Jetpacks, at least? Most of all, they want to know about the outcome of the world war their dad and brothers are fighting in. Though Henry is cautious—he’s seen movies about what happens when you disrupt the fabric of time—soon the present-day kids are sending their new friends on a mission to rescue a doomed candy store. What harm could that do? But one change leads to another, and when the six friends alter history in the biggest way possible, it’s up to them to change it back.

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What worked:
Some time travel books don’t deal with the paradox of how changes in the past might affect the future (What if you go back in time and your parents die?) but this book addresses the issue head-on with a twist. Readers know from the first page that the characters have dramatically changed history but they won’t know the details. World War II is going on in the past and the characters’ comments will lead readers to believe it turns out differently. The worst scenario would be that Germany wins the war so readers will look for clues as to how six seventh-grade students in New Jersey might cause that to happen.
The opening pages find Henry and Alice apologizing for the huge mistake they’ve each made and the rest of the book is told alternately from their viewpoints. Readers slowly learn that Henry’s story is from 2023 while Alice is sharing events from 1944. Henry and his friends dig up a metal box in his backyard but they’re confused by the contraption inside. Alice’s brother builds a crude radio made from scrap parts when Alice later rescues it from the garbage can. Both characters are startled when their contraptions start making static sounds and they’re even more shocked when they hear each other’s voices. Having characters instantly, and verbally communicate across 79 years is a creative concept by the authors especially when the characters discover past changes can quickly affect the future. This realization is when the plot gets very interesting.
The characters have different relationship issues in the two separate time periods. In 2023, Henry, Lukas, and Frances used to be best friends and neighbors growing up but things quickly changed one summer. They’ve drifted apart and rarely interact anymore. The death of a gerbil brings them back together but things are not the same. In 1944, Alice and Lawrence are best friends but Lawrence’s skin color creates some problems. Artie used to play with them too until his father forbade him from being around these bad influences. His father is of German descent and his character has an aura of mystery. Readers hear about him at times but his dialogue often leaves negative impressions. Readers will have suspicions about Artie’s father as his character adds intrigue to the story.
What didn’t work as well:
The events leading up to discovering the radio’s capabilities are slow-developing. Also, it’s challenging to figure out the rules of “time travel” once the kids realize they can alter future events. Most of the characters still exist in both worlds, their personalities mostly intact, but their circumstances, relationships, and memories have changed.
The final verdict:
The authors present a thought-provoking twist to time travel. Readers will scratch their heads while wondering how problems will be resolved but the fact this book is the first in a series indicates they will continue into a sequel. Some hints later in the book suggest there’s more going on here than readers might suspect. I highly recommend you give this book a shot as I anxiously await book two.
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