“The year is 2009. Nineteen-year-old Jackson Meyer is a normal guy: he’s in college, has a girlfriend… and he can travel back through time. But it’s not like the movies – nothing changes in the present after his jumps, there’s no space-time continuum issues or broken flux capacitors – it’s just harmless fun. That is… until the day strangers burst in on Jackson and his girlfriend, Holly, and during a struggle with Jackson, Holly is fatally shot.
In his panic, Jackson jumps back two years to 2007, but this is not like his previous time jumps. Now he’s stuck in 2007 and can’t get back to the future. Desperate to somehow return to 2009 to save Holly but unable to return to his rightful year, Jackson settles into 2007 and learns what he can about his abilities. But it’s not long before the people who shot Holly in 2009 come looking for Jackson in the past, and these “Enemies of Time” will stop at nothing to recruit this powerful young time-traveler. Recruit… or kill him.
Piecing together the clues about his father, the Enemies of Time, and himself, Jackson must decide how far he’s willing to go to save Holly… and possibly the entire world.”
Thoughts: In Julie Cross’ debut novel, Tempest, Jackson Meyer has a gift. He can travel through time. Even better, he can travel through time without any no catastrophic changes of history or other lasting consequences. To say that this power makes him cocky would be an understatement, until his girlfriend is shot and he jumps back to 2007, that is. Suddenly, he realizes that what he knew about his powers was just the tip of the iceberg. Not only that, but his jumps do have repercussions, and there is more to his story than he ever really considered. What follows is a thrilling ride back and forth through time as Jackson searches for answers.
Jackson’s adventures are exciting and fun even though they may not be completely engrossing. Jackson himself is what can only be termed as a decent guy. His character development is quite remarkable for being the first book in a series, which helps convince readers to cheer for him as the stakes get higher. His confusion is the reader’s confusion, and the connection between reader and hero is fairly strong. Helping this is the fact that his relationship and memories of his twin sister are particularly poignant, and one can easily envision crowds of teen girls swooning over his sensitivity and emotional capacity.
Where Tempest struggles is with the issue of time travel, which is essential to complete enjoyment and engagement in the story. What actually happens when Jackson jumps is never truly explained, and the reasons why he can travel through time is only briefly mentioned. The discussions of timelines, half jumps, full jumps, and other time-related activities quickly become overwhelming to readers or listeners not paying close attention to the dialogue. There are many unanswered questions about this ability, and one gets the distinct impression that future books will not be able to provide all of the answers. Ms. Cross is clearly relying on the action to engage a reader without worrying overmuch about the science behind said action.
On the whole, Matthew Brown is an adequate narrator for this convoluted story. His voice is age-appropriate, and he does a decent job evoking Jackson’s swirling emotions. He is less successful with other character voices, however, especially those of the female persuasion. They end up sounding a bit too much like a stereotypical Valley girl to be remotely enjoyable. In addition, his vocalization of Jackson’s friend, Adam, is also bothersome. Mr. Brown’s Adam sounds like the congested science guy from The Simpsons, which would be okay if it weren’t for the fact that Adam is the brainy sidekick to Jackson’s action hero moves. The stereotypical articulations of minor characters prevents the story from being completely absorbing. Still, Mr. Brown’s performance is sufficient, as TEMPEST is one story in which a narrator’s performance neither adds nor subtracts from the overall story.
Tempest is an unexpectedly complicated novel that never allows a reader to get too comfortable with the characters or the story. The science behind the story is improbable and not even well-explained but easily overlooked by this fascinating look at the issues that could occur with time travel. Jackson is a likable hero, maturing quite a bit through his discoveries and travels through time. The lack of graphic language or overt sex is a bit astonishing, given that the main character is a teenage male, but makes for a pleasant read that allows one to focus on the story and not on the mundane details. With at least two more books to follow in the series, Tempest is a satisfying introduction to Jackson’s fluid world in which black and white, and time, are never clearly defined.
Acknowledgments: Thank you to Esther Bochner from Macmillan Audio for my review copy!