McClimans (Time Underground, 2015, etc.) returns to the time-traveling adventures of teens Kristi Connors and Ty Jordan in this third volume of his YA sci-fi series.
At George Washington Prep, seventh-grader Kristi is annoyed at having to share a room with her younger, bratty stepsister. To make matters worse, she misses her classmate and best friend, Ty, whom she last saw back in 1858; they’d taken a time machine to the days of the Underground Railroad to help her ancestor gain his freedom. Ty decided to remain in the past, where he, too, lives with a sibling of sorts: his much older twin, Thomas (it makes sense in context). When Kristi begins learning about the Civil War in school—a conflict in which 700,000 men died—she realizes that the war was only a couple of years into Ty’s future when she left him. She goes to Thomas’ farm, now a museum dedicated to the Underground Railroad, and is horrified to discover a grave on the property: “Ty Jordan / Born September 19, 1847 / Died September 17, 1862 / Beloved Brother, / Youngest Surgeon in the Union Army.” Back in the past, the novel follows Ty’s attempts to serve his country, not as a soldier but as a doctor. It’s a journey that will take him from the hospitals of Washington, D.C., to his inevitable death at the Battle of Antietam. Inevitable, that is, unless Kristi and her time machine can do something about it. Fans of the series will appreciate this latest entry, which tackles perhaps the most tumultuous American epoch of them all. McClimans alternates between Kristi’s and Ty’s perspectives to tell his story of two friends trying to stop each other from becoming casualties in the nation’s bloodiest war. He writes in a sharp, energetic prose (“Kristi Connors lunged to catch a rolling can of Coca-Cola as it spread a fizzling brown wave across her desktop”), and the novel’s quick pace and unusual chronology make for an engrossing read. The book also isn’t afraid to dive into the grittiness of the period—the political divisions that tear communities apart, the horrors of warfare, and the brutality of contemporary surgical practices—and yet it also manages to remain lively and fun.
A well-constructed, compelling addition to an ongoing time-travel tale.