Beyond the Reflection's Edge by Bryan Davis is the kind of book I read as a kid.
I was always fascinated by time travel tales, interesting gadgets, and the grand "What If?" of alternate universes. In the first book of his Echoes from the Edge series, Davis introduces readers to three possible Earths, each with a timeline of its own.
But there is more to the story than that. Nathan Shepherd (seen here in a drawing by a young artist named Meghan, who submitted this piece on the fan art page of Davis's site) is the teenage protagonist we follow through the action. He's a likable character with an interesting background (his dad is a spy--ahem, investigator--his mom is a concert violinist, and even his tutor is a spy, uh, investigator) and collection of action-packed memories from his life so far.
The cool stuff: violins and classical music; cameras and photography; time travel (of a sort); a kid trying to rescue / find his parents, who may or may not be dead.
Nathan and Kelly (his co-protagonist) take pictures of reflections that may show themselves in this dimension, or may show themselves or other characters in another dimension. They travel by looking into a special mirror, playing music from a violin, and employing a flash from some sort of available light source (flashlight, lightning, et cetera).
Despite its real-life impossibility, I'm always up for stories about time travel. After all, skipping through time is always something I wanted to do--as a kid--and may have been why I found history an interesting subject in school. It's what I, as an adult, liked about Timeline by Michael Crichton (the book, not so much the movie), the beginning of which includes an interesting scientific description of the possibility of time travel.
Returning to Beyond the Reflection's Edge: It has received many positive reviews from YA readers, as evidenced by the first couple of pages of the paperback. However, younger children might be confused by the various timelines, dimensions, parallel events, and parallel characters.
Which brings me to a confession: I skimmed. A lot. Due to those parallels just mentioned, there's a certain amount of repetition and multiples of the same characters, all necessary to the story. After a time, however, it simply becomes wearying. Or it did for me. Other readers might be hanging on every word. It is pretty intense in places.
What I didn't believe: the times Nathan or a cohort would say something incredible to a supporting character, and it was just accepted. Though Davis addresses this briefly in a short dialogue between Nathan and Gunther (an adult to whom he previously made an outrageous but true statement), it doesn’t assuage my incredulity. There are some pretty amazing things said and done at which other characters just shrug and accept--responses that would not happen in reality, and that pulled me out of this already unreal story.
Other negatives: The supporting characters—Clara, Daryl, Tony—were thin and weak, merely tools and not necessarily interesting in their own right, though there did seem to be an attempt to give them some depth by providing background (Clara was once a professor before becoming Nathan's tutor, Daryl is a computer whiz, Tony is a womanizer and a clod).
Though Clara starts out as a primary character, she is soon relegated to the role of secondary, yet she (and the other versions of her) continue to perform essential tasks that further the story.
Someone who quickly becomes a primary is Kelly, who gains importance because she can hear what Nathan cannot always hear: voices and music from the other dimensions. There is some weirdness, though, as she goes from “foster sister” to potential girlfriend. However, the ending was handled pretty well, I thought, between Kelly, Nathan, and Tony (Kelly's dad).
Bryan Davis is the author of other young adult novels--the Oracles of Fire series, and the Dragons in Our Midst series--as well as a couple of other books, nonfiction for grownups, that are available on his website.
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