Clarion Rating: 4 out of 5
The Time Travel Team is an intricate middle grade fantasy that lauds inventiveness and science.
Jordyn Hadden’s action-driven middle grade fantasy The Time Travel Team imparts lessons on the history of invention.
Tyme Newton is one of four teenage descendants of great historical thinkers, along with her friends Luna Edison, Avia Wright, and Olympia van Gogh. When she finds a mysterious note and four time crystals in a copy of her ancestor Isaac Newton’s book, she and her friends are drawn into a life-or-death mystery. They collect clues, overcome obstacles, and travel through time to disable an invention initially designed to create free electricity for the whole world, but that could instead destroy the world.
Along the way, the teens face Zina O’Connell, whose parents have disappeared, leaving her angry and worried, and who has fantastical powers of her own. And at the heart of the mystery is another dimension, Intelligentsia, where great thinkers meet and share ideas outside of time. To become one of the creative and brilliant people who can travel to Intelligentsia, Tyme faces difficult choices.
This is a rollicking and age-appropriate tale, though its complex system of time can be confusing. There are discrepancies over how the dimension outside of time interacts with Earth’s dimension, as when interdimensional emails are sent. Repeated sections of exposition—as when characters explain the function of “time crystals”—ensure that most of the book’s rules are clear. Conversations between the teens read more like written dialogues than natural, spoken ones, though their advanced vocabularies help in establishing their intelligence.
The characters are engaging and work together well. Each of the four main girls contributes and hinders their mission by turns, and their flaws—like Tyme’s selfishness—make them relatable. Transitions between scenes are smooth, and Tyme’s story includes valuable and subtle lessons about teamwork, regret, and courage.
The teens overcome a wide variety of hurdles, though, and the rising action around them feels drawn out. Future events are better teased in early scenes, making the final showdown seem inevitable. Some of the subplots, including those focused on Zina’s pursuit of her family and Tyme’s memories of her grandmother, contribute to this dazzling conclusion.
Historical scenes—as when the girls travel back to the moments before Orville Wright’s first flight—are detailed and fun, featuring intelligent, creative people whose shared ideas contribute to the betterment of society. They help to make The Time Travel Team an intricate middle grade fantasy, full of inventions and science.
Reviewed by Laura Leavitt
Hadden’s YA fantasy debut features a group of teens who are tasked with saving the world by some of history’s greatest thinkers.
Fourteen-year-old Tyme Newton lives in Chagrin Falls, Ohio. Her father, Benjamin, is president of the town’s vaguely described “mechanical engineering” factory. One day, in her father‘s office, she discovers an old wooden crate containing a first edition of Philosophæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica by her ancestor Isaac Newton. It also astoundingly contains a note, intended for his descendant, which reads, “you have come upon the beginning of a mystery.” The back of the book holds four “time crystals,” each supposedly able to power a trip back in time. Later that night, Tyme considers testing the crystals, but before she does, she remembers her Grandma Isabelle, who died three years before. Outside, a storm interrupts her thoughts, and lightning hits the O’Connells’ house across the street. Afterward, 14-year-old Zina O’Connell searches for her parents, but they seem to have disappeared. While wandering around the property, Zina finds a stone with carvings that read, in part, “To find your parents you will need… / A watch, a bulb, a brush, a kite.” Tyme and her friends Luna Edison, Avia Wright, and Olympia Van Gogh, have these things, but they have no idea of Zina’s plight. In fact, they’re beginning their own time-hopping mission. They soon receive guidance from their relatives Isaac Newton, Thomas Edison, Orville Wright, and Vincent Van Gogh, who’ve joined forces in a dimension called Intelligentsia. Only these geniuses’ descendants can stop a cosmic generator from overloading and causing Earth’s doom.
Hadden is clearly enamored with all things scientific, and she strives to instill her passion for learning and the arts in her YA readers. The resulting adventure focuses on the heroic teens’ ancestries to kick the plot into high gear, and she adds a suspenseful, four-day countdown until the electricity machine will destroy the world. The author sidesteps the typical fretting over paradoxes when her characters travel back in time, instead allowing the girls to simply have fun—as when Olympia suggests a title for her ancestor’s latest work: “Well, it’s a night sky full of stars. You know, a starry night.” Tyme’s grandfather, Henry, frequently offers complementary notes of wisdom, as when he says, “We cannot live in the future, worrying about what lies ahead, or in the past....We must live now.” Coded ciphers and puzzles add further dimension to the narrative, as the girls must solve them to discover crucial details of their mission. Even famed dictionary compiler Noah Webster makes an appearance. Hadden’s core message, however, is the importance of teamwork and humility; Tyme’s ego—and her penchant for keeping secrets—nearly undoes the group and the mission, and her poor behavior is mirrored by Isaac Newton, offering a lesson for readers of all ages. By the end, everyone on the team has her own Idea Notebook to inspire future adventures in the series.
A winsome tale with a reverence for science and the humanities.
On May 1, 2019, the Kirkus Review for The Time Travel Team - Book One: The Great Historic Mystery appeared in the Kirkus Magazine, which is distributed to industry influencers. The review can be found in the 5/1/2019 issue.