Monday, June 04, 2012

Book Review: Tempest by Julie Cross

I had high-hopes for Tempest by Julie Cross. I've been pleasantly impressed by the Hunger Games and Divergent series and so when Entertainment Weekly talked about this as another young adult novel with a slight dystopian outlook about a guy who has learned that he can time-travel and who watches his girlfriend die and then must figure out how to prevent it, I was like "sold."

But, I can't recommend it... (and here be the spoilers) Originally, I had planned to give the rest of the series a look in the coming years (is that a new trend? a three book series, with a new book released each year?) but now that my wife is reading it (I'm delaying this review so it won't post until after she's done) and hearing her describe where she is in it, I'm liking it even less and less.

So this guy has learned he can travel through time. However, it's only backwards, it's only for brief amounts of time -- and it doesn't change anything. It's apparently nothing more than a parlor trick.

Until his girlfriend is murdered. His emotions at seeing that cause him to wish he was elsewhere and he finds he's been thrown back in time by a few years and try as he might, he can't seem to get back to her.

At several points in the book, someone says something to the effect of "Throw out everything you know about time travel." Which seems apt because even within this world, the rules are not clear and don't seem to be consistent. And for someone like me (who counts the "Back to the Future" trilogy as one of his favorite movie franchises) this is frustrating. I can accept another theory on time travel, but it needs to be applied consistently within the world it exists. And this isn't.

So, now he's stuck a little bit further in the past and, while it's never explained, the rules change. He's forced to learn to control his ability more and he also decides to meet his girlfriend earlier. But he's not a relatable or even deep character. Really none of the characters are all that deep.

But we learn more about his past, his family's past, about why time travel is possible, and that there are multiple factions with different aims for time travelers.

The plot gets a little confusing, a little muddled, and in the end, it steals right from The Butterfly Effect when the character realizes the only way to keep his girlfriend safe is to never be a part of her life. A disappointing ending for a book that sets itself up with the relationship as a central point and the catalyst for the character's motivations. Sure, the character has grown, but it feels cheap. Like when a TV show makes a life-altering change to a storyline (like a wedding or child) and then realizes they've backed themselves into a corner and kill off a character just to get themselves out of it. This sets the guy up for the rest of the trilogy to travel throughout time doing stuff without the baggage of a significant other. A shame since she was probably the most likable character in the book.

If I could go back in time and decide whether or not to invest the time in reading this book, I'd choose to skip it. Standard boilerplate admission of guilt and sorrow on my point to negatively review a book, but well, there you go.
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