In Gonzalez’s bold, imaginative young-adult debut sci-fi novel, a 17-year-old orphan discovers powers he never knew he had.
When he was a young boy, Gavin Hillstone’s loving adoptive mother was killed in a store shooting. Her husband, Jet, has always blamed Gavin for her death, and Gavin has suffered years of abuse at his hands. One day, after Jet nearly beats him to death, teenage Gavin discovers that he might still have living biological grandparents, and he journeys to Washington, D.C., to track them down. Once there, he learns why his grandparents put him up for adoption—and that his family has secret magical abilities. They’re photo travelers: people who can use any photograph as a portal to travel to the time and place depicted in the picture. One of their central principles, however, is to never change the past. Gavin also discovers that his family has enemies—another group of photo travelers known as the Peace Hunters, who feel that it’s morally justifiable to alter past events to make the world a better place. In the hands of a lesser author, this concept might have been a difficult sell, but Gonzalez grounds his novel in emotional reality, making it easy for readers to suspend disbelief during the fantastical portions. Gavin is a fully rounded character who seems a bit emotionally immature for his age at times, but his psychology is utterly believable—from the trauma associated with his abusive childhood home to his gradual acclimation to the prospect of reclaiming a family who loves him. Unfortunately, after a zippy, adventurous beginning and middle section, the novel comes a bit undone in its final act due to a plot hole and an unfortunate divergence into melodrama. Up until that point, however, the author delivers a well-paced fantasy story in a richly drawn world.
An engaging, if flawed, YA time-travel tale.