The first time I came across The Time Travelers was in a Barnes and Noble with, you guessed it, Smarty Pants. We were perusing the middle grade shelves, doing my quarterly research into the popular titles and not-so-popular ones. I have a habit of judging books by their spines, not their covers. My eyes scanned the shelves and stopped on The Time Travelers and then its sequel, The Time Thief. I love the spine on both, but what really caught my attention was The Time Thief. I had just started writing my MG novel about time thieves, and here was an already published MG novel with a similar name. Naturally, I whined to Smarty Pants. Had I known any Korean at the time, I probably would have yelled, “Andwae!” which roughly translates into “No way!” It was crisis time. Do I abandon my novel before I even have a chance to start it? Do I forge ahead and hope I’m not plagiarizing? It’s hard to plagiarize when you haven’t read the other book, but what if some ideas are similar? How do you prove that you had didn’t know, that you were just using your own imagination? Smarty Pants told me to read it and see how similar they were, but I wasn’t ready.
I’m ready now. I’ve finished my first draft of Mina vs. The Time Thieves (MVTT) and now have a solid idea of where I’m going with it even if I’m nowhere near achieving it. I read The Time Travelers by Linda Buckley-Archer and loved it. Peter and Kate accidentally get sucked back in time to 1763 England due to a freak accident with an antigravity machine. Did you notice that they get sent back to the eighteenth century? I’m intrigued already. They have to adjust to all the foreign mannerisms and obey societal rules of status, which, as expected, leave them open to scrutiny and possible danger. They spend the whole novel trying to get home, but in the mean time, make friends with the people they meet, find themselves watching a hanging, participate in a horse race, and more. At this point, I would normally complain about stereotypes if this were a YA novel, but I didn’t find myself suffering from that issue for this book. Maybe MG is different? Maybe it’s because the main characters aren’t focused on the opposite sex and can have adventures as imaginable as possible because children’s imaginations are crazy big?
I have to say that it did take me a while to adjust to the writing style, not because it was third person but because the narrator dipped into a lot of characters’ heads. It confused me because I thought, at first, it would follow Peter. It does but with license to occasionally tell us what another one is thinking. Much like Jane Austen’s free indirect speech but not as well executed perhaps. Once I moved past that difficulty, I had no trouble enjoying this book. What it does do really well is switching between time periods without hindering the narrative. It’s not choppy. It doesn’t make you stop and think, “Wait, which century are we in now?” I’ve read some books that switched time periods so often and poorly that I had no idea where we were unless the author gave me the date. I applaud Bukley-Archer for implementing that stylistic element almost effortlessly.
Something I liked and didn’t like was the use of famous people from the eighteenth century and Britishisms. I knew who these people were and what the Britishisms meant, but I question whether American children would also know these things. I don’t believe that she should have changed it. I think that when they published it in the US maybe they should have changed a few words here and there as long as it didn’t detract from the meaning of the story. If someone even begins to say that means American children are stupid because they wouldn’t understand, I’ll have to argue with you. We use different words here: French fries vs chips; potato chips vs crisps. That’s simply how it is. That doesn’t make one country more right than another. It’s like soda vs pop vs coke in the US. I’d like to think that because they kept the original British words, American children would ask what it means. But I know that that wouldn’t always be the case. Not everyone is that curious of a reader. So maybe if they didn’t want to change it, they could have added a glossary in the back. This is not necessarily a complaint of the author but rather a suggestion on how to reach a greater amount of children so that they understand.
Steeped in history with a fast-moving plot that was sometimes overly complicated with discussion of time travel, The Time Travelers is a must-read for its use of somewhat unusual fantasy elements (not magic!) while still being grounded in a very realistic society. 9/8*