Book Review: Backtracked

March 14, 2010

Freedom, that’s the only thing I asked for.  The freedom to be myself, not the reflection of a memory.

backtrackedI picked up Backtracked by Pedro de Alcantara because (a) he’s Brazilian and one of my besties is Brazilian, and (b) the jacket flap describes it as the story of a boy who is haunted by his brother’s death on September 11.  Also, the opening line about how Tommy had lived several lives before his birth and didn’t know it intrigued me.

The story is about a boy (Tommy) whose firefighter brother died on September 11, but it’s also a time travel story reminiscent of the movie Brother Future.  Tommy seems destined to stay stuck in time until he can help someone other than himself.  Either that or learn a Very Important Lesson.

What I Liked

– This novel is actually a love letter to the New York Transit system, and I liked some of the descriptions about how the subway has changed over time.

– Since this is largely historical fiction, I liked the moments when Tommy had to orient himself in time.  The descriptions of the other people and their clothing and homes were very interesting.

– It’s an engaging read, mostly because I had to see how Tommy would get back to the future.

What I Didn’t Like

– I didn’t feel one whit engaged with Tommy or his friends or his relationship with his family.

– I thought this book was going to be about Tommy understanding something about himself or his brother, and it wasn’t.

– The ending did not feel earned.

– None of his adventures felt at all connected to the ~*deeper lesson*~.

– Tommy is not Brazilian.  Which, honestly, is fine for the story (Tommy is Italian, which places him in certain situations/places in the past), but I was expecting him to be because of the author.

– The theme seems to be that Tommy has it so much better than he would if he lived in the past so he should be grateful, but, um, that does nothing to address the very real pressure he seems to be feeling because of the loss of his brother and the treatment he gets from his family.

In conclusion:  This book does not live up to the premise.  At all.

POC Challenge:  6/15; YA Reading Challenge:  10/75

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