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The Hazards of Time Travel

The Hazard of Time Travel

by Joyce Carol Oates

An ingenious, dystopian novel of one young woman’s resistance against the constraints of an oppressive society, from the inventive imagination of Joyce Carol Oates

“Time travel” — and its hazards—are made literal in this astonishing new novel in which a recklessly idealistic girl dares to test the perimeters of her tightly controlled (future) world and is punished by being sent back in time to a region of North America — “Wainscotia, Wisconsin”—that existed eighty years before.  Cast adrift in time in this idyllic Midwestern town she is set upon a course of “rehabilitation”—but cannot resist falling in love with a fellow exile and questioning the constrains of the Wainscotia world with results that are both devastating and liberating.  

Arresting and visionary, Hazards of Time Travel  is both a novel of harrowing discovery and an exquisitely wrought love story that may be Joyce Carol Oates’s most unexpected novel so far.

When I read the synopsis of the book, I was immediately hooked and I requested it without a second thought. I mean, just read it, doesn’t it sound absolutely interesting? And after reading it, I admit that to a certain extent, the promised adventure and excitement was given but I was also left feeling a bit ‘meh’ about it all and only the ending made me feel like this book was maybe worth it.

Let’s talk about the author’s writing style for a moment, for something that sounds like the quintessential YA dystopian novel, this book manages to stay loyal and yet move beyond that at times and that is one of the reasons I finished it. Seriously, the writing is good, the pace pretty excellent and the overall concept (as with many other dystopian novels) very interesting. However what let me down in this case was the lack of character development as well as the world building. If either of those had been strong, the book could have had 3.75 or even four stars.

Adrienne as the lead character failed to make me invested in her although I do admit that her bewilderment at the different era and how in the past, people and technology was different amused me. She’s not a bad person, just naive? She doesn’t really understand what her thoughts are or what direction they may take and how they could affect her and others around her. She also doesn’t seem to have any strong opinions of her own, or rather if she had them, I didn’t see them in the book, it was a bit bizarre, that.  As I said before, the lack of character development and her not being strong enough a force to drive the plot forward convincingly made all the difference in me rating this book.

The romance was lackluster at best and suffered what almost all YA dystopian romances suffer. I sometimes wondered if it was on purpose, the whole rather underwhelming romance but I was never sure enough to forward with that thought. If it was on purpose then this fact makes the novel a bit more interesting.

There’s also the problem of secondary characters not being fleshed out properly, they simply weren’t developed and I felt so let down by that. Then there was also the format of the book itself, the way it’s written, it’s almost like someone is recording the happenings and not living them. It lacked that feeling of being in the middle of action, of plot.

Overall, a very underwhelming read for me, not a bad book but not the book I was hoping to read in any case. Oh, well. You win some, you lose some. From what I have read on Goodreads, this is not the author’s best work so I am not giving up on the author just yet.

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