Fulton’s debut begins a series for middle-grade readers about two tween girls who inherit a time machine.
Twelve-year-old Carly is devastated when her grandfather dies unexpectedly of a heart attack. He leaves her a box—which he instructs her not to open until she’s 18 or she really needs it—and the contents of his locked workshop, where he died. Of course, Carly and her best friend, Patti, can’t wait to open such a mysterious box, which contains a key and a device. The key goes to a time machine Grampa's friend invented, one that’s so easy to use, the girls can figure it out without an instruction manual; just rewind the device to return to the present. The girls decide to use this incredible invention to sneak backstage at a One Direction concert and spy on the filming of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants in Greece. Perhaps these are destinations real pre-adolescent girls would happily choose, but without some central conflict to drive the plot forward, it’s not easy to become invested in the friends’ adventures. Some strong scenes involving bullies suggest a challenge for the girls to which many readers could relate, but this theme is never fully explored. Finally, more than halfway through the book, a real problem comes up: Carly’s parents are fighting, and her dad moves out, leaving her mom very unhappy. While it would have been better to introduce this critical plot point earlier in the story, it does give Carly a compelling reason to use the time machine. She decides to go back to 1989 and prevent her mom and dad from meeting; only after her plot is successfully put into motion does she realize that if her parents never met, she and her brother would never be born. She obviously hasn’t seen Back to the Future.
This time-travel tale doesn’t add much to the well-worn gimmick.