I admit to being a sucker for time travel novels even though I end up actually liking very few of them. I liked Saving Lucas Biggs by Marisa de los Santos and David Teague.
This is a review of the ARC received from the publisher in exchange for a fair review.
When thirteen-year-old Margaret's father is unfairly sentenced to death by the cruel Judge Biggs, she is determined to save him, even if it means using her family's secret-and forbidden-ability to time travel. With the help of her best friend, Charlie, and his grandpa Josh, Margaret goes back to a time when Judge Biggs was a young boy and tries to prevent the chain of events that transformed him into a corrupt, jaded man.
This book sucked me in in the best of ways, I wasn't expecting that to be honest. But from the first sentence I was hooked, and I could not put this book down. This is how the story begins:
In the time it took a man to speak a single sentence, I discovered three things: there's a reason a judge's robes look like the Grim Reaper's, a blooming jacaranda tree can feel like a big slap in the face, and there is such thing as a silent scream.
How all these things come together and the character giving them voice are riveting. Margaret's father has been convicted of murder and the judge has just handed down a death sentence. Imagine how that would affect a thirteen year old, particularly when her father is innocent. Margaret is falling apart, in turmoil, and will get help from any source she can. Grandpa Josh, the grandfather of her best friend Charlie, suggests a way, one that would mean breaking all the rules her family lives by. Margaret's family has an inherited ability to time travel, something Josh claims to know from being well acquainted with Margaret's great great aunt. He tells her to turn things around she can go back in time and make the life of the judge, Lucas Biggs, different. The story is told in first person, mostly from Margaret and the Josh of the past as he is an integral part of Luke's story having been his best friend. Charlie gets a few chapters too. All the voices sound different enough to be genuine. The characters are interesting too, but not thoroughly fleshed out and nuanced. This is a short book and it is incredibly plot heavy. But the story is a good one, and the characters shine as much as they need to in order to tell it.
I enjoyed the history of the town of Victory, Arizona. Through Josh's perspective, the reader gets an up close view of what life in a mining town was/is like. There is a labor dispute and terrible things happen that affect the town for decades to come, right up to the work Margaret's father was doing and the events that led to his arrest. It is a fascinating story with many difficult issues and themes explored. I like how the authors included the harsh realities and truths of all these subjects. It is first and foremost a story of redemption, and how no one is ever too far gone in one direction to turn their life around and go a different way.
The time travel element is an intriguing one. At first I was highly skeptical, but it began to make sense in a way that fit perfectly in the book. I am fairly particular about the way time travel works and how it affects lives, and this book handles it exactly the way I like. As every character referring to it says, history resists. If you are familiar with the Oxford Time Travelers books by Connie Willis, what a time traveler can do works in same way here as it does in those books. It is never explained in more detail than those two words, history resists, but it doesn't need to be. It is shown perfectly.
I enjoyed this thoroughly and think it is fast paced and engrossing enough that kids will like it too.
I read an e-galley made available by the publisher, Harper Collins Children's, via Edelweiss. Saving Lucas Biggs is available for purchase today.