Sunday, June 16, 2013

Time Between Us by Tamara Ireland Stone

It's 1995 and Anna Greene lives in Evanston, Illinois with her mother who is a nurse and father who owns a bookstore. Anna would love to travel but her family doesn't have the money.

The novel opens in March, 1995 with  16 year old Anna running on the track at Northwestern University where she first sees Bennett Cooper sitting in the bleachers. When he suddenly disappears, Anna goes to investigate and discovers that there are no footprints in the snow.  But when mysteriously Bennett shows up the same day in her Spanish class, Anna is shocked. However, strangely enough, Bennett doesn't seem to recognize her, even though he smiled at Anna when she was running. At lunch Anna tells her best friends, Emma Atkins and Danielle, about her strange experience at the track. They decide to bring Bennett to their table where he expresses disbelief and recognition at her name, but claims not to have been at the university track that morning.

Then Anna meets Bennett again in the park across from her house, in pain and struggling to breathe. When she leaves him to go get water at a nearby coffeehouse, she finds him gone upon her return.

When he doesn't show that week for classes, Anna's friend Emma manages to get his address. He lives with his grandmother, Maggie, not far from Anna's family's store. Anna's visit to Bennett's home only creates more questions about who he is and what is wrong with him.

Everything changes however, the night Anna's family's bookstore gets robbed. Bennett who is with Anna when the robbery takes place, intervenes and time travels with her in order to save her, thus revealing to her something of his secret. When Anna asks him for an explanation, Bennett tells her that there are three parts to his secret which he will reveal to her in time.


Bennett gradually fills Anna in on his abilities. He can travel from one location to another in the same time, and he can also travel within in his own lifetime, meaning he can't go back in time before he was born nor can he travel to the future outside of 2012.  Anna soon pieces together more of Bennett's secret: in her year, 1995,  he is a baby living in San Francisco. Bennett is from her future, 2012 where he is seventeen and she is thirty. This means that in April of 1995, there are two Bennetts; one in San Francisco and one who is 17 years old with Anna in Evanston, Illinois. This leads Anna to question how there can be two Bennetts in 1995. He tells her that if he is in the same place at the same time, the younger version disappears

At first Anna is very accepting of this partly because she has already begun to crush on Bennett, but also because Anna has a deep desire to travel. She has a map up in her father's store which she plans to mark all the places in the world she visits.Her desire to leave Evanston and experience the wider world lead her to be a part of Bennett's strange existence. However, when Bennett begins to reveal more about his abilities, Anna struggles. Bennett tells her "I don't ever stay."

However, Bennett's third secret is much more serious. While Bennett and his sister Brooke travel back to a concert in 1994, which was before Bennett was born, he gets kicked back to his correct time, leaving Brooke stranded in 1994. This is the reason for Bennett returning to Evanston - to find Brooke and return with her.

As Bennett and Anna spend more time together their relationship blossoms into a full blown romance. But in the middle of their romance is the strange reality that Anna is sixteen years older than Bennett and that he doesn't really belong in this time. Bennett explains to Anna that he is careful not to cause many changes in the time he visits because even small changes can have a "butterfly effect".  However, when a major crisis strikes, both Anna and Bennett must decide just how much effect they are willing to have on their own lives and on others to stay together in this time.

Stone has written a lovely time-travel romance that effectively draws her readers into the novel from the very beginning. The hook is two-pronged; a puzzling prologue dated October 2011 and the mysterious appearance of Bennett Cooper at the track sixteen years earlier in March 1995.The mystery surrounding Bennett's abilities are gradually revealed as are the implications of his actions with regard to Anna and those around her.

To the author's credit, the details surrounding Bennett's ability to time travel were reasonably simple and therefore, did not overwhelm the storyline. The main plot is the love story between Bennett and Anna, with the twist that they exist in two different times. The subplot of Bennett's sister, Brooke, was never really developed but was used by the author to create the climax of the novel. It would have been interesting though to have found out how Brooke made it back home and what had happened to her.

There isn't a great deal of character development in the novel. Anna and Bennett are the two major characters who are for the most part believable and well drawn. Their relationship with one another is touching. Anna values honesty and so does Bennett but when Anna finds out that Bennett has been hiding something from her to protect her, she calls him out on it. She tells him that she doesn't want to be protected, that she needs to make her own choices in her life. 

What I didn't like about this novel was the ending - the reappearance of Bennett Cooper. This is a novel about choosing your own path in life and I feel that Anna at the end was doing that. She decided that Bennett leaving was sad but that there were other options and that she needed to grab onto to those instead of waiting and hoping that he would someday return. That was the positive message reinforced by her decision to do things differently the second time around. She chooses this because she learns from Bennett that the choice she made the first time didn't work out for her. Bennett knew what his appearance in Anna's life in 1995 did to her - he knew the positive effects but he also knew that overall he had a negative effect on her life. Yet he still returns because he believes he make this work. I felt that regardless of the outcome, his was a very selfish choice. His presence in a time he is not supposed to be in will still have the potential of unimaginable repercussions for everyone. For example, it's obvious that Justin loves Anna, yet with Bennett in the picture, will Anna ever give him that chance? Left alone in their own time, Anna and Justin might have become a couple.

The ending leaves us with many questions such as how did Bennett manage to come back, and how can he stay in 1995? Hopefully,  these will be answered in the sequel, Time After Time, which will be published in October, 2013. I like most readers, can't wait to see where Stone takes her story of Anna and Bennett.

Book Details:
Time Between Us by Tamara Ireland Stone
New York: Hyperion Books    2012
368 pp.

No comments: