3/9/21

Time Travel for Love and Profit, by Sarah Lariviere, for Timelip Tuesday



Time Travel for Love and Profit, by Sarah Lariviere (YA, Penguin Random House, January 2021) is a ground-hog day sort of time travel, but with an interesting twist that makes it unique.

Nephele is starting her freshman year of high school with her best friend, and so isn't worried that she's a social awkward math prodigy with no other social network, taunted by other kids for her hairy arms.   But then her friend dumps her, and she takes a nose dive into self pity.  When she finds a book called "Time Travel for Love and Profit" in her parents' used bookstore, she's inspired.  Clearly what she needs to do is restart freshman year, and this time do it as a cool kid.

So she invents a time travelling machine, and sure enough, there she is starting freshman year again, this time with cool clothes and shaved arms, determined to crack the popularity code.  It doesn't work.  So for the next ten years, she keeps on trying.  

But there's a terrible twist to it--although she herself stays fourteen, everyone else is growing older, and though she herself remembers everything, the time travel works by messing with the minds of those around her.  Her parents have blurred out her date of birth, for instance, and even worse, they start to freeze when she presses them on this and other issues.  Solving the time travel problem doesn't leave her much time for friends, and she's still just as obsessed and social awkward as ever, so nothing is any better.

Then in the tenth try (after the first few tries, the rest are just referenced in passing...), two new kids show up at school, and for reasons that escape her, they are determined to make friends with her.  And they succeed, and Jazz, a great kid with a sad past of his own, becomes more than just a friend.  So Nephele is faced with a choice--keep redoing her life to try to fix the mistake that's snarled her parents minds, watching them age, loosing friends, and seeing people she cares about die, or accept that this is now the life she's going to live....

Nephele still has lots to learn about life, but her story ends on a hopeful note.

She's an interesting protagonist, not immediately appealing, but as the reader gets to know her better, increasingly sympathetic.  And when her social world starts opening up, the two new kids and the progress of their friendship make it a much warmer story.  There are lots of little humorous bits, and lots of though-provoking bits, that helped keep my reading momentum up even when I was wondering if I would loose patience with Nephele's continued do-overs.  

It's very odd time travel, in that Nephele is the only one caught in the quantum entanglement she's created.  She is resetting herself, but not the outside world, which is marching on.  Places she knew aren't there any more, smart phone technology is evolving, and of course there's the discomfiting fact of seeing others get older.   

It's a YA book, but one I think kids in 7th and 8th grade would especially enjoy--they're still at the beginning stage of figuring out who they are, and will probably find Nephele more relatable than older readers.  It's a blatant affirmation that being a weird kid is ok, and if you look for other weird kids you can find your people, which can be a useful message.  

Recommended for those who like "high school coming of age from friendless geek to more confident friended person who is still weird" stories, who have a tolerance for high level theoretical math painted with broad brushstrokes....Not recommended so much for those who like everything to make sense and who need firm closure.


3 comments:

  1. Wow. This one really sounds interesting. I will be looking for a copy. Thanks for the heads up.

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  2. An interesting twist indeed! Ten times is a lot of redos though. I'm not sure I would have the patience to read through all of those.

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    Replies
    1. we don't get all ten, actually; most are just referenced in passing....I will put that in the post!

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