In this first book in a YA sci-fi series, a grieving teenager goes back in time in a desperate attempt to save her younger brother.
Brooke Wallace is a senior in high school when her brother, Branson, develops a cough that won’t go away. Her family is devastated when he’s diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis and dies within four months. Spiraling into depression, Brooke becomes “obsessed with the idea that I wasn’t living the life set for my soul”; soon, she decides to set things right by taking her government-approved trip back into her own past. In this near-future setting, all citizens get one free chance to relive part of their lives—however, time travelers are under strict orders not to do things differently and risk changing not only their timelines, but those of others. Yet Brooke feels sure that she can keep Branson alive without altering much else. With her parents’ blessing and secret research help from her brother’s doctor, she’s transported to a point months before Branson’s death. She’ll make a total of three trips as she struggles to figure out why Branson got sick—was it the cream for a skin rash or asbestos in an attic?—and keep him away from the cause. When her first attempt fails, she uses her mother’s trip. This go-round, she’s sure Branson’s escaped and strikes up a relationship with a boy named Charlie Johnson; then her brother starts coughing again, and when Brooke returns to her present, he’s still dead, her parents have separated, and she’s broken Charlie’s heart. Will Brooke ever be able to move on from Branson’s death? Or will she lose her life trying to save his? This poignant, well-written story puts mortality—and readers’ reactions to it—front and center. Brooke muses at the beginning of the tale: “The first time Branson died, the ‘original’ time, as I would come to refer to it, I almost died with him. Not literally, but figuratively. My soul broke into a thousand tiny pieces I didn’t think I would ever be able to put back together well enough to sustain a normal existence.” As Jahn (Let Them Burn Cake!, 2015, etc.) takes Brooke through the same events multiple times, the author explores how small changes can snowball into huge ones and how attitudes can influence, if not overcome, tragedy.
A lovely, tear-jerking tale of time travel, familial love, and sacrifice.