27 August 2012

Book Review: Time Between Us by Tamara Ireland Stone

Conceptually, Tamara Ireland Stone's Time Between Us is a lot like Audrey Niffenegger's first novel, so in my head I've been calling it The Time Traveler's Girlfriend.  It's the story of Anna, who attends high school in the Chicago area in the mid 1990s, and Bennett, who is a teenager in San Francisco in 2012.  They were never supposed to meet, but Bennett is a time-traveler and an avid concert-goer who "lost" his sister in the past while attending an early Pearl Jam concert in Soldier's Field, so he sticks around Chicago trying to find her and enrolls in Anna's school.

So let's get the hard things out of the way: time travel can be a deuce of an element to work with, both as a writer and a reader.  Bennett can travel through space AND he can travel through time, but while the former is a pretty easy "jump" for him, the latter delivers a mean kickback.  He can also take people along with him, but they end up with a moderate kickback. If his older self encounters his younger self, the younger self disappears.  Bennett also has his personal credo of not changing the future (or having "do-overs," as he calls them). Well, okay. Time travel is always a little hard to wrap one's head around, and I may not entirely buy into the author's premise, but I'm willing to accept it as a jumping off point for enjoying the rest of the book, which is a sweet story of first love and self-discovery.

I thought the dialogue, while not as snappy as what you might find in a John Green novel, was both engaging and authentic.  Anna's relationship with her best friend, British-born Emma, is full of the ups and downs that characterize many teen friendships, and her parents are fun and supportive and just embarrassing enough to be perfectly real.  Beyond that, though, it's Anna's yearning to know the world beyond her small midwestern circle that drives the novel. The same innate sense of adventure and desire to experience the food, language, music, and literature of other cultures is the same thing that draws her to Bennett, world-traveler extraordinaire. That's right: it's the travel part of time travel that draws Anna to him as much as anything else. In turn, Bennett is both drawn to and envious of Anna's deep family and community roots and her sense of connection to home, and they bring out the best in each other, like first love often does.

One day, however, a future version of Bennett pops up to warn Anna about something, that he needs to show her something, and that he's having trouble getting back to her--then he disappears, and it's only when he confesses the contents of a letter that Future Anna wrote to Current Bennett, that they start to understand the paths they need to take. When Bennett is yanked out of Anna's time and back to his own, with no means of returning to her time, it's Anna's decisions about her dreams and aspirations that will determine whether she can have a future with Bennett.

This is a solid YA novel with broad appeal for readers of realistic fiction and romance, and the time travel aspect may draw in some fantasy fans, too. While Niffenegger's novel will certainly resonate in the minds of all who have read The Time Traveler's Wife,  Time Between Us can stand on its own merits as long as you can suspend your disbelief, or at least not dwell overlong on the paradoxes inherent in time travel.

NB: This book will be published in October by Hyperion, and I picked this book up from among the ARC piles at work because I thought it would be a fun and quick read.  It succeeded on both counts. 


  1. I was one of the few that didn't enjoy Time Travellers Wife so maybe I would have more luck with this one?

  2. I'm looking forward to this one. Great to hear that it was a good one on the YA front!


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