Tempest, by Julie Cross (2012, St. Martin's, YA, 352 pages) Never has a bus ride gone faster than last night's journey home spent reading this book (I almost missed my stop), and I was sad that once I got home I had to put it down and shoulder the burdens of domestic life (which is why this post is going up late in the day).
The gist of the story: Jackson discovered he could travel back in time one day in French class when he was 18--not back to distant pasts--just thirty minutes or so. But gradually, with the help of a geeky friend (who's scientific mind is having a blast studying Jackson), he's been pushing himself further back, and trying to make sense of what he can and can't do.
Then sense goes right out the window one night in 2009, when Jackson is 19. Armed men burst in on him and his girlfriend, Holly, and she is fatally shot. Instinctively, Jackson jumps back in time...and finds himself in 2007. And unable, for the first time, to jump home again.
Shaken not only by what happened to Holly, but by the difficulties of time travel logistics (his credit cards, which traveled back with him, haven't been issued yet), Jackson struggles to make sense of what's happened to him, and what the heck he's going to do living life as a 17 year old again (going back to high school is not an option). And then there's Holly, who is meeting him for the first time again, and who he still loves...and then there's his twin sister, Courtney, who died of brain cancer a few years ago, and who he has finally traveled back to see again...
But more to the point, there's the issue of the gunmen who attacked Jackson and Holly in 2009. Jackson gradually learns that they are just the tip of the iceberg, and he finds himself caught between two warring factions --time travelers, and those who seek to control them (whose ranks include Jackson's father). The story escalates wildly as Jackson struggles to find out who he can trust, struggles to find out who he is, and struggles to face his grief for his sister, his relationship with his father, and his love for Holly.
Yep, it was a fast bus ride! Tempest delivered both emotionally and suspense-wise, and was an utterly riveting page turner. I appreciated the fact that the tense mystery of the time traveling side of things (who are the good guys? who are the bad ones? What crucial clues are still hidden? Whose going to be shot next?) are neither overshadowed or overwhelm the character based side of things. Jackson's situation back in 2007 with regard to Holly is a unique twist on teenaged love--in Jackson's mind, he and Holly have already slept together, but she is meeting him for the first time.
It is a complex, twisty sort of story, almost too busy and frenetic at times for my simple reading self (I never did know what the heck was happening with the time travelling dudes with guns, and things get increasingly confusing up to the very end), but, since, the reader's perspective stays tightly aligned to Jackson's, his character and perspective served as an anchor. I am not sure whether I actually care all that much about Jackson, though---some aspects of his story, like his grief when his sister died, rang beautifully true, but the whole complicated business of his relationships with past and present Hollys didn't move me as much as I would have liked.
In short, I found it a very gripping read--perfect for the bus. I'm kind of glad, though, to have a break before the sequel. Even though I want to find out what happens next, I need a rest before charging into it.
The cover is, I think, misleading--Holly and Jackson look like angels (especially Holly, whose pose really ges on my nerves. I would never fall like that, nor would I want to), when really they spend most of the book either a. in danger, with guns involved b. very concerned with their relationship (sex happens).
disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher