A Time Traveler’s Theory of Relativity – Review

“We lie to ourselves when necessary. Some of us are more convincing than others. My family has always been particularly good at it.” So begins Nicole Valentine’s new middle grade sci-fi/fantasy novel. The words are spoken by an unknown narrator who chimes in frequently throughout the book. This is a moving story about a boy trying to understand his family and his place in the world, about relationships, and about the lies that we tell.

*Thank you to the publisher for a review copy of this. All opinions are my own.

Finn is a 12 year old boy who “is used to people in his family disappearing,” although at times he simply feels like they are leaving him. But when his mother seems to have abandoned them, everything breaks down. His father goes to search for her and Finn is sent to live with his grandmother. Finn gets frustrated with the fact that everyone seems to be keeping secrets from him so he goes snooping on his own. What he discovers confuses him, but when his grandmother decides that that is also the night to reveal the big family secret, Finn gets more than expected.

Finn is a very interesting character. He has a scientific mind and is obsessed with quantum physics. He loves his family, but is also carrying a great deal of guilt and pain from his twin sister’s death when they were three. He is basically a loner, except for his best friend Gabi. The other kids make fun of him for being different, his mother being gone is just icing on the cake.. His life hasn’t been easy, but he is utterly confounded when his grandmother tells him that his mother isn’t somewhere but rather some-when and that all of the women in his family are time travelers. It is a bit far-fetched, but Valentine handles the idea of time travel remarkably well.

It turns out that there is a lot more going on that simple time travel. Turns out that his mother is hiding from other time travelers and other enemies. There is a much bigger story about Finn’s entire life that has been kept secret from him. It’s one of those situations where every everyone in your family knows something but they aren’t telling you. This book becomes his quest to find out the truth, even if he has to suspend his belief in logic in order to do so.

This was a completely different read that I really enjoyed with a small homage to A Wrinkle in Time. There were unexpected twists and turns which kept the story constantly in motion. Finn struggles with the notion of being “worthy” to his family and feels much like a failure. He had a lot of things to figure out and it was great that he had his friend Gabi by his side. For kids who enjoy science fiction and are okay with time travel, this is a great read.

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