Monday, February 24, 2014

Time After Time by Tamara Ireland Stone

Time After Time is the companion novel to Time Between Us. In this book, the story of Anna and Bennett continues but is told from Bennett's point of view. In August 2012, Bennett has been home for three months. Bennett's parents want him to stop time traveling as it's too dangerous and he doesn't seem to have control over what happens. They also want him to start living his own life in the time he was placed.  But over the last three months, Bennett and his sister, Brooke, have travelled to numerous concerts. Anna will be returning from her exchange in La Paz, Mexico and Bennett plans to travel to see her. So to cover his trip to see Anna in 1995 Evanston, Illinois, Bennett tells them he is going camping in the mountains.

When Bennett arrives in Evanston, he finds Anna's parents less than welcoming. Unrealistically, Bennett had hoped they would not hold his vanishing suddenly against him, but that does not seem to be the case. He and Anna spend the night together at her home. Bennett tells Anna he can only spend a maximum of three days at a time with her, that he's tried to stay longer but that he gets knocked back to his own time. Anna is unhappy about this but accepts their strange long distance relationship as it is.

When Bennett arrives to stay at his grandmother, Maggie's home, he learns that she went to visit her daughter - Bennett's mom, in San Francisco on the urging of Anna. It seems that Anna encouraged her to go visit because of what Bennett had told her. So Anna has affected the future based on knowledge she obtained from Bennett.

Bennett returns to 2012 and during breakfast on his first day back, learns about a terrible fire in the Tenderloin district of San Francisco that results in the death of two little children. His father feels that Bennett should time travel back to prevent tragedies like this and is contemptuous when Bennett does nothing. Meanwhile, Bennett seems unable to settle into life at school in 2012. He is emotionally distant from his friends, uninterested in a nice girl named Megan, and unmotivated to complete his school work.

Bennett decides to go back in time to the scene of the Tenderloin fire and intervenes to change what happened. For the next three weeks he lives "in the present", although he spends time thinking about Anna. When he returns to 1995, Bennett goes to Anna's friend, Emma's party where he tells her about the Tenderloin do-over, they spend three days in Paris, and Bennett does a do-over in 1997 to help someone who is injured in that time. But then the unexpected happens - Bennett passes out and awakens at his grandmother, Maggie's home. Bennett decides to tell Maggie about his abilities and a bit about what happens in the future but he warns her against doing anything to change that future.

Back in 2012, one day in October,  Bennett learns about another tragedy and this time he and his father go back in time to change what happened. Thrilled at the result, Bennett decides he has to tell Anna about this but when he attempts to return to 1995, he gets thrown back to his own time. Except he is injured and 22 hours are unaccounted for. Bennett has no idea where he has been for those 22 hours. This also means that he missed Anna's homecoming.When Bennett does finally get back to 1995, he tells her that his parents have requested that he stop time travelling. This causes a great deal of conflict between the two of them and Bennett promises that he will tell his parents about her.

To prove to Anna that he is serious about their relationship despite the time travelling, he brings Brooke back with him to 1995. But an expected event in Anna's life reinforces Bennett's belief that he cannot continue to redo time to help people without influencing the lives of others. Bennett must now make the decision as to whether to keep seeing Anna or to stay in 2012 and live his own life. Convinced he's not meant to be in her life in 1995, Bennett must tell Anna despite his desire to keep seeing her.

Overall this was an engaging novel that continues the interesting premise Tamara Stone set up in the first novel. Bennett's narrative was interesting because it showed him facing two major conflicts - whether or not to help people who have suffered a tragedy and whether or not to keep seeing Anna. In this novel, Bennett breaks his own rule of not changing things on two different occasions.Although this makes him feel like he is helping others, when tragedy strikes Anna's life, Bennett finds that it's not so simple to stage a "do-over" because too many lives could be changed.

He also must face the inevitable impossibility of his relationship with Anna - continuing a relationship where he can see her only three days at a time. At first Bennett believes that travelling back to see Anna won't work, but she tells him that she wants him to keep coming back and that she won't place any restrictions on when or how he comes back. This makes their whole, out of time relationship seem very tenuous at best, with neither being able to live their lives fully in the time they are placed. For me this made the ending somewhat unsatisfying because I wanted Bennett to face the reality of his situation - something he seemed to do until his sister Brooke convinced him to go back once more.

Stone doesn't focus on the how's and why's of Bennett's time travelling abilities which she keeps quite simple so as to not bog down her story. Although the ending seems far-fetched and wraps up rather quickly and neatly, it would be interesting to see where Bennett and Anna are in five years time.

Time After Time is a well written sequel to Time Between Us which most young readers will enjoy both the romantic elements and the suspense of wondering what will happen to Anna and Bennett.

Book Details:
Time After Time by Tamara Ireland Stone
New York: Hyperion      2013
339 pp.

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