The Unintentional Time Traveler by Everett Maroon is the story of teenage Jack Bishop, whose epilepsy ends up with him put into an experimental program to try to cure him. Unexpectedly (to say the least), this causes him to travel back in time and find himself in the body of 1920s teenage girl, Jaqueline. But as Jack repeatedly jumps between time periods, losing stretches of time along the way, things get complicated in both the past, with a prohibition-era self-proclaimed prophet ruling the town by violence, and in the present (or is it?), as his actions cause rippling repercussions…
Overall, I found this a delightful read with a great narrator and a strong theme of identity. Moving between time periods (both in the “past”, and by the way losing time caused him to have to resettle in his life without knowing what’s gone on in it) and bodies brings up a strong theme about how identity itself is experiential. The situations you live through in both different time periods and different bodies: both affect your identity. Jack’s narrative voice grows and evolves throughout as a result of this variety of experiences.
There’s a lot of disconnect and skipping in the book. Both as Jack and as Jac, the protagonist finds that he ‘returns’ to whichever time to find that life has literally gone on without him. The changes in the world and technology aside, he comes back to Jack (for example) to find that he’s gone through puberty, or got a girlfriend, or got a job. All of which he didn’t remember, because the Jack who did it wasn’t him—or was, but was living life as a Jack who was separate in time. The story starts out fairly straightforward and linear and gets more disconnected and jagged the longer Jack spends in a different time and body, or the more Jack goes back to reset things. I liked this quite a bit because the disconnect is deliberate and plays well into the sense of being about an experience, learning things by living them, not by understanding how they’ve developed.
The only way I was drawn out of the story is that at several key decision points (both in the romance and in the plot), we don’t see Jack’s POV on why he’s making a decision to act. We just see the dialogue around it, or a skip to it happening. We’re in Jack’s POV throughout the story and hear a constant entertaining self-deprecating dialogue, so these moments really stood out to me. We’re experiencing so many discoveries along with Jack that not seeing the mental decisions to take those steps makes it feel very blank in comparison to what we’re reading the rest of the time. I feel it may be deliberate, to play around with the concept of disconnect/skipping/experience, but since we’re solidly in a time/setting/body and are seeing thoughts leading up to that and right after the relevant story-driving decisions are made, the lack of seeing Jack make those steps felt odd to me.
Overall, a fun adventure with great characters and a solid theme. I’m looking forward to seeing what the next Time Guardians book will have to offer.