by Edward Bloor
Knopf/Random; September 2006; $16.95
Core Audience: 10+; especially good for readers who like WWII history
Strengths: Good premise, interesting blend of history with elements of mystery, and a ghost story
John Martin Conway’s life could be better. He lives in a suburb of New Jersey, and at thirteen his parents are divorced, his father’s an alcoholic, and he spends most of his time in his basement bedroom IM-ing his only two friends. And now, at the private school he attends as a scholarship student, (and which he hates), he has gotten himself into trouble with a gang of boys including the grandson of one of the school’s most prominent donors.
When Martin’s Nana starts calling late at night, and talking about a kid named Jimmy who comes out of the radio to talk to her, he’s not sure if she’s going senile, or if something else is happening. When he inherits the radio a few weeks later, it sets him off on an adventure that could be time travel, or a hallucination, or a waking dream—he’s not entirely sure. All he knows is that he’s suddenly in London, during the Blitz of 1940, and a boy name Jimmy is asking for his help. The chain of events this sets in motion will weave together all of the disparate elements of his life both past and present into a surprisingly coherent whole.
Bloor has a gift for writing in a believable voice about teenage angst, and I liked the quiet way he deals with the difficulties of Martin’s family. Young readers will be hooked by the mystery of Martin’s “time-travel” and will want to keep reading to unravel the truth. I thought the strongest part of the novel is the reality with which air raids of the Blitz are portrayed. I think Martin is a little too self-aware and spiritual for a thirteen year old, but this isn’t a fatal flaw. This book will appeal more to boys than girls, and will be perfect for readers who love WWII, or who love mysteries.