A teenager travels back to 1941 and encounters his grandfather in this YA debut.
It’s 2004. John, age 18, is mostly uninterested when his elderly grandfather presents him with a mysterious box one day: “The box was timeworn and resembled a long-lost treasure chest….The musty smell was of a rarely opened attic, and it had a curved top like a prop from an old pirate movie.” John is disappointed that the items contained within don’t possess much monetary value, but he nevertheless sticks the thing in his baseball bag before heading to his game. Later, after being struck in the head by a fly ball, John wakes up on the field of a different game: one that took place in 1941 that his grandfather has been telling John about all his life. John meets his grandfather’s younger self, Bill, and gets to know him as a peer. What’s more, John gets to live in his same house—it was standing back in 1941—but with an entirely different family. One that includes (unlike John’s 2004) a loving father. With his grandfather at his side, John gets to experience what being a teenager was like back in the early ’40s: both the things that were different and the things that never change. “I always assumed school was the same no matter which decade I attended,” John observes. “Boy was I wrong.” He also gets to see a side of his grandfather that he’s never observed before. Schumacher tells his story in clear prose, and John’s first-person narrative is buoyed by an infectious enthusiasm for the world around him. The objects in the grandfather’s box are used as representative totems to unlock different avenues in the tale, and the author makes good use of his setting, which successfully conjures a small Midwestern town right on the cusp of World War II. The novel does not drift far from the expected path, and the ending is a bit formulaic. But overall the book is a pleasant exploration of familial bonds across generations and the timelessness of youth.
A well-crafted, if conventional, time-travel tale.