The First State of ­Being

Greenwillow. Mar. 2024. 320p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9780063337312.
Gr 3-5–Kelly returns with another solid middle grade novel exploring themes of time travel and personal responsibility. In 1999, anxiety-ridden 12-year-old Michael, in the throes of prepping for a potential disaster thanks to Y2K, happens upon a teen named Ridge, who is strangely dressed and speaks in unfamiliar phrases. Ridge has traveled back in time from 2199 thanks to his mother’s scientific work and a dare from his siblings. Although the opportunity to know any and all future outcomes is irresistible to Michael, he understands he must help Ridge get home. Small bumps in logic and pacing are this story’s only issues. The loss of a kindly mentor throws a wrench into the rhythm, with the urgency of Ridge’s return set aside for a stretch that feels longer than the number of pages it takes to read. However, Kelly has deftly assembled a community of empathetically rendered characters, making this an enjoyable, uplifting reading experience. The elements of sci-fi will be enough to sate fans of the genre while remaining approachable for all audiences.
VERDICT A lovable cast buoys this time travel drama by one of the most reliable authors in children’s literature.

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