In this YA sci-fi thriller, a teenager discovers that he has the ability to slow time—and that another “slower” like him has committed nefarious crimes.
Fourteen-year-old Emit Friend, of a Princeton, New Jersey, suburb, has a few problems: ADHD, a sleeping disorder that makes him drowsy during the day, trouble concentrating, and frequent, bad headaches. During an especially boring science class, he daydreams about playing a prank on his teacher by hiding her textbook. When she accuses Emit of stealing it, he doesn’t understand—he was only daydreaming. Emit’s principal is sympathetic, and after the teacher finds her textbook where Emit imagined hiding it, he advises the young man to think about how it happened. So Emit pays attention while he “zone[s] out”—and discovers that he can move at normal speed while everything else is slowed down, almost frozen. Emit is delighted at being a “slower,” using his superpower to get the better of bullies, trick friends, and even change the course of a professional football game. But he soon discovers the ability’s dark side: “it’s fun to use power. And it’s much easier to use power to do bad than to do good.” It turns out that someone close to him is an even more powerful slower who’s done terrible things—and that person wants to join forces with Emit. To prevent a catastrophe, Emit must stop the other slower before it’s too late. In his debut novel, Shepherd beautifully orchestrates the manner in which Emit’s story unfolds. The teenage protagonist has a mischievous personality, so it makes sense that he initially slows time for mild pranks on friends and enemies. The escalation from unwitting to deliberate harm feels natural—and all the more chilling for being so. Emit’s musings on right, wrong, and whether one’s actions are forgivable make for scenes that are just as compelling as the book’s taut, action-packed climax. His voice is natural and engaging, carrying readers along in this page-turner, and side characters play vivid roles as well. A satisfying ending offers a surprise or two and may leave readers hoping for a sequel.
A captivating, exciting, and thoughtful time-manipulation story.