Twelve-year-old Finn’s twin sister, Faith, drowned when they were three years old. His mother up and left Finn and his father a few months ago. As his father loses himself in his academic research, Finn clings to science for a concrete hold on life, and relies on his friend, Gabi, to be his steadying constant. But one night, his grandmother tells him a secret that throws everything he’s ever known – everything he’ll ever know – into chaos: the women in Finn’s family are Travelers; women who can travel through time, and each generation is more powerful than the last. Finn’s mother didn’t leave him. She’s traveling through time trying to put things right, and she needs Finn to find her and help her, leaving him a portal for him to Travel through. He has to be careful about who he can trust, though; there are people who don’t have his family’s best interests at heart, which could lead to disastrous consequences. Can Finn put his faith in something he’s never been able to believe in before, and embrace the unknown, the abstract, in order to save his family?
Theory is a story of grief and loss, with hope and the courage to believe in a bigger worldview. Filled with plot twists and shifts that make this a good read for science fiction and fantasy fans, and readers who are ready to take a step into a bigger world, we meet Finn, is a solidly constructed character with a tragic backstory. Finn can be the reader’s entry point into the story, giving us a character who’s haunted by loss and cleaving to science: dependable, real. But when you think about it, physics is a pretty abstract science; there’s an entire branch of physics dedicated to theoretical study, and time travel theories abound when discussing quantum physics. That Finn chooses physics as his scientific field of choice is an interesting one, and shows that he’s willing to reach beyond the concrete… maybe. Gabi, Finn’s best friend, is Puerto Rican and mentions that she and her mother have had friction in the past being “newcomers” to their town, and not only because they haven’t spend their entire lives there. She’s ready to face anything with Finn. Other characters – mostly Finn’s extended family – have bits and pieces of backstory that unfold throughout the story, making them interesting and slightly mysterious. A good read for book clubs, Theory comes with some discussion questions at the end; the questions are also available through the publisher’s website, as is a chapter-by-chapter educator guide.
Give Theory a shot, and hand it to your sci-fi and fantasy readers for sure. Give it to your realistic fiction readers that are ready for a good time-traveling mystery, too. Booktalk it with A Wrinkle in Time, which also touches on the mechanics of time travel and science, or Rebecca Stead’s When You Reach Me; a great example of using time travel within a compelling realistic fiction setting. A Time Traveler’s Theory of Relativity is a Junior Library Guild selection.
Want to meet author Nicole Valentine? She’s on tour!
Nicole Valentine (https://www.nicolevalentinebooks.com/) earned her MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from the Vermont College of Fine Arts and teaches writing workshops at the Highlights Foundation in Honesdale, PA. As the former chief technology officer at Figment.com and Space.com, Nicole loves science and as a writer enjoys pondering the times when science falls short of explanation and magic has room to sneak in. When not engaged in fictional world-building, Nicole can often be found with a hawk on her arm. A Time Traveler’s Theory of Relativity is her debut novel. She lives in Pennsylvania with her family. Twitter: @nicoleva IG: @nicolevalentine