Time Bomb by Joelle Charbonneau
Published by HMH Books: scheduled for March 2018
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Suspense
I just want you to know it took ALL my self-control to NOT name this review something silly and insanely punny like TIME BOMB IS EXPLOSIVE or something.
Time bomb was one I felt could really go either way! I was nervous about a few things but I really like this one!
A congressman’s daughter who has to be perfect. A star quarterback with a secret. A guy who’s tired of being ignored. A clarinet player who’s done trying to fit in. An orphaned rebel who wants to teach someone a lesson. A guy who wants people to see him, not his religion.
They couldn’t be more different, but before the morning’s over, they’ll all be trapped in a school that’s been rocked by a bombing. When they hear that someone inside is the bomber, they’ll also be looking to one another for answers.
I was intrigued by the premise immediately. I am very sensitive to school violence/guns/the way America handles (doesn’t handle) guns/the way schools handle (or don’t) safety in general. Given these issues, I was worried about how well I would handle this. But I feel this is done really well.
I am a mother, with a 5th grader in America and deal with these fears enough already, and this definitely reminded me of that. So I wouldn’t go so far as to say trigger warning? But several times while reading while my kiddo was at school, I wondered where he was and how he was doing and mildly fretted.
The writing is third person, but alternates through the perspectives of the six main characters. I couldn’t help but draw parallels between this and One Of Us Is Lying.
The narratives for the different characters feel different enough that alternating so often through so many characters isn’t awkward or uncomfortable.
Time Bomb is written very well. It takes place over the course of only one day, (really, only a few hours of one day), so the pacing is definitely something I was worried about. It holds up so well, though. It is nerve-wracking and suspenseful and everything you want from a book with such high stakes.
I won’t get too crazy specific on each character. I didn’t like all six of them. Really, I only liked two. Two and a half. But, I found all of them incredibly believable and (mostly) relatable. Some people aren’t going to be likable in a stressful situation, and the reactions feel natural and real.
We have Rashid, a Muslim boy, dealing with exactly what you would expect in the aftermath of a bomb. Tad, a gay, mixed-race kid. Diana, a senator’s daughter obsessed with being perfect. Frankie, the quarterback. Z, a kid already thought to be a trouble-maker. And Cas, a victim of bullying.
Given these characters, a lot could have gone wrong. I do think these things, especially the treatment of Rashid’s faith by the author and the treatment of Rashid by the other characters in the book, were handled very tactfully. (I am not Muslim, so I can only say this from my limited perspective. It felt real and natural and not gimmicky, and a great way to talk about race/religion. The kids talk among themselves about these things, and I think it’s handled very well.
Even the shitty kids find a balance and look out for one another, for the most part, and I am a HUGE fan of stories where kids come together. So that was possibly my favorite aspect.
One, I don’t feel the ending is all that much of a surprise. I did guess it a little more than halfway through. I guessed the correct bomber, though I was wrong about the motivations which did make it interesting. I did feel moments of this were fairly irrational? But I don’t want to go into spoiler territory.
I also really need to figure out how I feel about cursing. SO, y’all know I curse a bit. That being said, I have no problem with books with no swearing. I pointed out in my review of The Lost Causes that they didn’t curse, and I thought that was cool because it felt authentic even if I have a hard time believing so many kids from different backgrounds don’t curse in a stressful situation. What happened here though was that there were, like, filler swear words? Like there’s LITERALLY A BOMB GOING OFF and a kid thinks: Oh, hell! Now maybe I’m being crazy, but I do NOT think oh, hell, when serious shit is going down. You know? It almost made me laugh? And pulled me out of a fairly serious narrative. Like. Take the words or leave them but don’t add filler words.
Overall, I think this is a very interesting read with some important things to say. It’s available to request on NetGalley!