So, I mentioned recently that I went on a bit of a book-buying binge a couple of weeks ago, as a means of distracting myself from Finals preparation. Now that I've gotten over those woes and am on Winter Break, I can finally read those books (and no worries about my classes... I 4.0'd English and got a 3.8 in Fairy Tales)! I was most excited about Timebound, by Rysa Walker, so I decided to give that one a go first, out of the many books I have on my Winter TBR list, because, honestly, with 3 weeks off of school, a lack of time was no longer a problem for me.
Timebound (first in the "Chronos Files" series) details the story of sixteen-year-old Katie Pierce-Keller, a normal girl with divorced parents, who finds out, one day, that she's never existed. Well, not in this timeline, anyways. But if that's true, then it means everything her grandmother has told her, about the organization CHRONOS and the genetically-determined ability to travel through time, is true. Suddenly, Katie has to cope with a present where her best friend is part of a cult, her mother was never born, and her new boyfriend is the guy who took her place when she disappeared. But when it comes down to it, can just a normal teenage girl make the difficult decision, of which time stream is correct... and which one is right?
I initially approached this novel with no small amount of trepidation, due to the typical tricky nature of building a cohesive and fully-integrated world oriented around the concept of time travel. There's a lot of rules to explain, fundamental issues to address (um, why are things randomly disappearing?), and we can't forget the tweaks to the time-old idea that makes the concept individual... and it's difficult to make such a popular plot device your own.
Ultimately, all of my questions about how, exactly, this was going to work were answered; however, in citing the age-old adage of "actions speak louder than words," I wish there had been a little more demonstration than info-dumping. The benefit of having a clueless protagonist who is learning information at the same rate as the reader is that there's the opportunity to explain... I just wish it had been done in a less drawn-out and monologue-like fashion.
To be real, I almost DNF'd at around 25% of the way through the novel. I just found the pacing uneven, the constant descriptions to be pretty droll, and the relationships too unrealistic (not because of the time-travel thing, but because of the whole insta-love thing). The novel - though containing a lot of interesting historical factoids - was unfortunately written in a more basic style as well. Probably a good choice, due to the already confusing nature of what is being discussed, but boring. And honestly, for a novel that builds up to the 1893 Chicago Worlds Fair, they sure took their sweet time in getting there.
However, once they did, things finally got interesting. Really interesting, actually, and really quickly. The plot - finally straightened out and fully operational after all of that exhausting and extensive back story - takes off with a bang, and the stakes are made clear. The endless pages dedicated to the construction of, well, everything, form a complexity of interwoven webs in the time stream where, all of a sudden, we jet directly to the action, and it's nothing but a race to the finish line.
The book was hard to get through in a lot of places, but in the end, I really enjoyed it. Walker tackled a subject that's both been overplayed as well as over-hyped and wrote a book that utilizes the topic of time-travel in a totally new and engaging way. The book leaves off at a pretty interesting moment, and it's primed and ready for the next book in the series to completely blow us away, like the second half of this first book did. Walker took her time building the car... now let's just see how fast it can drive.
For fans of historical and science fiction for the YA set, as well as evil cult-ish religions manipulated for secret purposes and lots of Princess Bride references, I would recommend Timebound, if just for the adventure that's clearly in store with the next novel in the series.