Rabin writes an intriguing young adult novel which addresses the pertinent issue of youth gang violence. In 2010, teenager Langston Davis witnesses the gang murder of his best friend, Neely. Langston is desperate to rectify the situation and struggles to change the course of history. Langston, a motivated and bright student, has developed a close relationship with his biology teacher, Mrs. Cetauri. She has created a time machine which will only work for a few short days and entails the creation of a fake counterpart. On his own accord, in an attempt to bring Neely back to life, Langston goes back in time to change the course of history so that Roger Bacon does not create gunpowder.
The start of the book is warm, caring and well-written. Yet after the first few chapters there is an unevenness and much scrambling, with an almost sitcom-feel in the later scenes. The writing shifts from strong, emotionally-powered scenes to almost juvenile episodes like Langston’s counter-body playing champion basketball (the real Langston is not athletic). The author admits to stretching the historical truth, which detracts from the plot rather than adding to the story. Certainly, the real statistics in the Notes were striking (e.g., number of gun related deaths each year) and may elicit a stronger response from young readers tempted to dabble in gun use, which seemed to be the author’s original objective. Ages 10-14.