By Tamara Ireland Stone
Published by Doubleday
ISBN 978 0 857 53115 5
Mixing genres in a novel can be dangerous, and the end result sometimes fails to find an identity. With her debut novel Time Between Us, Tamara Ireland Stone throws three well-trodden fiction genres - fantasy, thriller and horror - into the mix. The result is a book that, in places, can't decide what it is supposed to be: the time-travel tale, the teenage angst-ridden romance or the American high school pulp novel.
Stone has crafted a slow-moving story about falling in love with the one person you shouldn't fall in love with. It's been done before, and the time travel aspect isn't explored excitingly enough to give the book an edge over the other teen romances flooding the post-Twilight market. Even the most dedicated teenage romance fan will find herself shouting "Get on with it!" at the two, overly soppy protagonists.
The heroine and narrator of the tale is Anna Greene, a steady and slightly boring American high school junior. Stuck in a dull life in small-town America, Anna dreams of travel, adventure and romance. What's new?
Stone doesn't take us far into Anna's routine and life before a cute new boy arrives at school. Besides being seriously attractive, Bennett Cooper has an air of mystery about him. Anna first sees him watching her one morning when she is on the running track. One minute he is there in the spectator stand, and the next he has vanished. From the get-go, Anna suspects there is something out of the ordinary about Bennett. And she is correct.
As the two teens get to know each other, Anna learns Bennett's secret. He has the ability to travel back and forth in time, and has landed in 1995, Anna's year, to sort out some family business. The last thing he expected was to fall in love.
At first, Anna revels in Bennett's ability to whizz through time and space as he whisks her off to Italy and Thailand without anyone noticing they're missing. But complications arise when Bennett admits that he may be losing control over his special power, and that he can't promise Anna that their relationship has a future.
Any teen romance is a fascinating adventure in time, but here romance and time travel sit uneasily together and become confusing. The time-travelling aspect of the novel is not fully explored and seems to be a tricky add-on to a story that tries hard, but fails, to bring something new to the table.
John Millen can be contacted on MillenBookshelf@aol.com