Sometimes time traveling (either doing it or reading about it) makes your head hurt, because of all the tricksy paradoxes and divergent timelines and multiple strands of reality, and (me waxing poetic) sometimes it makes your heart hurt too (if you are the time traveler), when you see your dead mother still alive (assuming you loved your mother, or at least wanted to love your mother) or say goodbye to a beloved in a timeline that isn't reality not knowing if you will meet again. And then sometimes a week passes between reading a book in which all of the above happens (except for the run-on sentence structure) and sitting down to review it, and then one becomes really uncertain indeed about summarizing the plot....
No True Echo, by Gareth P. Jones (Harry N. Abrams, Oct. 2015 in the US), is the story of an ordinary English school boy, Eddie, living a boring life with his grandmother in a boring small town in the middle of nowhere and then Bang it all blowing up into a swirling vortex of time travel madness. The catalyst that sets off the bang is the arrival of a new girl, vibrant and curious and charismatic. A new girl who Eddie wants to be friends with. A girl who is actually not a catalyst, but a reactant--there because of things done in other pasts and in possible futures.
This is sci fi time travel of a fantastic sort--a machine that can send echoes of a person back into their past, allowing them to change things. But the echo pasts live alongside the original pasts, and just what the original, real, meant to happen timeline is gets obscured. This confusion hits Eddie's timeline hard, because the new girl hasn't come to his time and his place by chance--it is the epicenter of the new time travel technology. Basically the title of the book sums up the whole approach to time travel very nicely.
Eddie is about to ask questions he'd never considered, like "is my mother alive or did she die in a car accident when I was a baby?" and "will I ever see this girl I think I might love ever again." But Eddie confusions aren't all that this story is about. There was also a murder done, which Eddie is a witness to (or possibly no murder ever happened), and if it did in fact happen, justice needs to be done....and so, in a rather nice little side plot, we see bits of that story from a local policewoman's point of view, in both the book's present and in the future.
I enjoyed it very much; you don't often get a murder mystery that personally affects the characters, and I enjoyed splashing along with Eddie as he floundered through all his various pasts and presents. I'm not sure I understood it all at the end, but it was a good ride. One that was made even better by the inclusion of Frankenstein, which is the text being discussed in English class, and which echoes lots within the story. Good food for thought,
The romance stays rather nascent, because of temporal complications and both Eddie and the new girl being rather busy, and so it is not your run of the mill sort of YA spec fic with young love front and center. It felt at once middle grade (Eddie is still on the young side of teenagerness) and adult (with the thrillery murder mystery and all the complicated sci fi temporal paradoxes). The library copy next to me rather coyly says "tween;" I guess I'd shelve it as YA with the caveat that the best reader of all might be the sharp as a tack 7th or 8th grader....
Short answer: happy to have read it, happy to recommend it, pretty sure I don't need my own copy to re-read in the nursing home (I think I will only take books I am sure I understand to the nursing home with me....)
And now--what does Kirkus say? (I like to compare with Kirkus because they often disagree with me and because it is easy to find their reviews).
"At once a classic time-travel narrative and resonant fable about the price to be paid when we alter our world simply because we can, this smart, satisfying eco–techno-thriller with heart transcends genre."
All right, that's fair enough, although I'm not sure about the "eco" part. There were some trees mentioned....possibly a sheep or two kicking around in the background...it was definitely muddy.....It's certainly not "eco" in the sense of "global warming" or "horrible drought."
Just for kicks, here's what the UK edition, which came out some months earlier, looks like: