Book: Time Bomb
Author: Joelle Charbonneau
Age Range: 12 and up
Time Bomb is a standalone young adult thriller about a high school bombing. The story begins with a brief scene in the afternoon in which the reader learns that several teens are trapped in the school, and that the bomber is one of them. The time frame then moves back to the morning, with short chapters from the perspectives of each of six kids. As the book progresses, the reader (and the other kids) has to figure out who the bomber is. Each of the six main characters has gone to school planning something desperate, but their individual motivations are only gradually revealed.
Time Bomb reads as a combination of suspenseful thriller and The Breakfast Club. The carefully balanced diversity of the students (in terms of race, religion, sexual identity, socioeconomic status, popularity, and body types) struck me as a bit contrived, but the survival story and the mystery both held my interest. I did have a guess as to the identify of the culprit by mid-way through the book, but I wasn't sure, and I appreciated Charbonneau's continued planting of clues.
In a ripped from the headlines touch, one of the kids is the daughter of a senator who is trying to enact legislation that "would require that students and teachers inform the administration if they thought someone in the school might be interested in doing harm to students, teachers, or school property. Any students reported would then have to hand over their passwords to social media and email accounts of face suspension and a potential investigation by federal authorities." (Page 7-8)
It's the interactions between the students, most of whom don't know one another prior to the bombing, that give the book its heart. This is constantly balanced with efforts towards survival, however. I do think that the combination works, and will keep kids reading.
I'm not sure whether the timing of this book, released one month after the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, will end up good or bad for readership. I personally had to wait a couple of weeks before I was ready to read it. But it certainly does offer insights into the struggles that are going on inside the hearts and minds of high school students, and the ways that some of them may respond. There are characters offering both windows and mirrors for any teen reader. I had a hint of the feeling that I had after reading Thirteen Reasons Why, that somewhere, some reader of this book might be inspired to reach out to fellow students. And if not, well, most will still enjoy solving the mystery, and wondering what they might do to survive. Recommended!
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers (@HMHKids)
Publication Date: March 13, 2018
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher
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