Genre: Time travel romance
When college senior Joel Smith and his best friend Adam pass through Helena, Montana on the way to Seattle, Joel learns two things that will change his entire life: 1) six planets are aligning in a once-in-a-lifetime cosmic event, and 2) there’s an abandoned goldmine outside of town (and what geology major can resist that). After finding a cave of florescent rock and an ornery rattler, Joel knocks himself out on a low-lying beam and wakes up in 1941.
I loved Joel’s sense of adventure from the beginning and and was curious about how that aspect of his personality would carry over to 1941. After his first train-hopping adventure, I wasn’t disappointed.
Joel’s a little bit of a Mary Sue, though. EVERYBODY loves him and he’s awesome at everything. The one I expected to be more Mary Sue – Grace, the love interest – pleasantly surprised me. While she is smart, funny, beautiful, etc. she’s also very human, and I found myself empathizing with her more than with Mr. Time Traveler. Grace makes a few mistakes along the way, and she’s had quite a bit of tragedy in her life, but she owns her screw-ups and comes out better for it.
A lot of the novel feels happy-go-lucky and fortuitous, but I think that’s intentional, given that the 1941 timeline begins only a few months before the US’s entry into WWII. Joel makes a small fortune thanks to his sports knowledge and a few well-placed bets, but there’s still that underlying sense of dread as he knows what’s in store for his family and his new best friend Tom Carter.
There’s quite a bit of nuance in this book. Joel’s biting wit and wry humor are underscored by Joel’s knowledge. True to the grandmother paradox, Joel tries not to influence or change much (and no, Futurama aficionados, he does not become his own grandfather); however, even Joel Smith can’t resist tampering just a little.