Blue-haired Zoe Mahar ducks into a bank to escape a downpour and comes face to face with a robber who’s not afraid to use his gun.
The violent encounter leaves two people dead, including a friendly young man who shields Zoe from a bullet. But Zoe, 15, has a special ability to turn back the clock 23 minutes just by saying “playback,” allowing her to change the outcome of events. She knows from experience that she’ll have only 10 tries to get it right. Vande Velde brilliantly opens the novel with three generations of the robbery story, from a short prelude to a detailed, drawn-out version of the 23 minutes that Zoe is about to relive. Zoe reworks the events leading up to the shooting, getting to know her protector, Daniel, and finding a way to build trust so that she won’t waste any of the precious 23 minutes. But each time something goes awry, with different (and more) people getting killed. One time she gets shot herself. Zoe, who comes from an abusive family, courageously grapples with the morality involved in choosing who lives and who dies as she literally runs out of time. Weighty issues aside, Zoe comes across as a clever girl with a sense of humor about her own opinionated nature.
A gripping page-turner for time fantasy enthusiasts. (Speculative fiction. 12-17)