My dear bookish friends!
I’m so excited to finally reveal one of my favourite books of the 2022 BBNYA competition. If you don’t know what BBNYA is (The Book Bloggers’ Novel of the Year Award) you should really click the link above and head on over to the official website to find out all about it! I have been a panelist (and graphic designer) from the first year and can only recommend joining the judging panel (or, if you are an author and want to join it from the other side, you should totally do that too!).
But now, on to the book! The Time Trials was by far one of my favourite books in this past competition (and I was actually thinking it would be scoring much higher, but alas, the crowd has decided!). Read on to find out exactly why!
After the deaths of his parents in a horrific car accident — one that he considers his own fault — Walkman-toting, guitar-playing Finn Mallory would do anything to turn back time…to press “rewind.” When he’s admitted on full scholarship to an elite boarding school, things get more complicated: he becomes an “Unfortunate” in a sea of rich kids whose shoes cost more than his late parents made in a week. An invitation to a boring-sounding history club changes everything, as this team does much more than research and field trips.
Well….they do take field trips. Just not the kind you’re thinking. For Finn, the present was already enough to deal with, but now he finds that he also must reckon with the past, in more ways than one.
Finn received a scholarship to a private boarding school – one he would never have been able to attend otherwise – and is thus known as one of the so-called ‘Unfortunates’. What’s worse though, he feels responsible for his parents’ death, and that guilt consumes him. They wouldn’t have been on the road if it hadn’t been for him, and so never have gotten into the car accident that ended their lives way too early.
Feeling miserable and lonely, the last thing Finn expects from his school days is to make friends – least of all Queen Bee Everly. That is why he thinks it’s all a big joke to her, but he is even more surprised to find Everly among the attendants of the so-called ‘Young Historians’ Club’ he is sent to by his teacher. However, Finn soon finds out that this is no ordinary club like chess, maths or art. Will his time at the boarding school turn out different than he expected?
I hadn’t read a boarding school story in ages and I loved this setting! Boarding school stories are so different and offer such a unique spin on children’s or youth literature and I usually really like books with them. The same was the case here! I am also a huge fan of time travelling in books, and seeing both combined here was amazing and worked really well. It wasn’t just any ‘ordinary’ time travelling either (as far as that can be ordinary) – there are contests with other schools (hence the book’s title) and it’s the goal of the Time Trials to battle out which team should win. The teams have to travel back to different historical events to find specific artifacts.
No easy task – so working together as a team is a crucial part of the trials. Finn finds himself grouped together with beautiful and popular Everly (obviously), and also Edison (an autistic boy who prefers to keep to himself) and Valerie, the athlete of the group. There is so much to say about the trials themselves and I wish we would have just spent a little more time exploring them and their respective worlds – having them fleshed out just a bit more would have been so good and that’s probably the only slight negative I can even mention.
Something I really liked that had the tension up super high was the fact that the trials were actually very dangerous. If something happened during them in the past – if, for instance, a character died, they would stay dead in the ‘real’ world too. So, it wasn’t just fun and games but actually potentially deadly! It had a bit of a Hunger Games flare to it, and I really liked that!
I also loved how unique and different each of the four team members was. We have basically polar opposites in popular Everly and outcast Finn, but Edison and Valerie bring their own special twists to the table and the book wouldn’t be feeling complete without them.
A very gripping and unique YA story that can be shelved among the time travels, but also the ‘deadly games’ and the boarding school novels. Definitely don’t miss out on this one, it’s a hidden gem (although probably not hidden for much longer after the BBNYA exposure!).
4.5 stars from me and a ‘highly recommended’ sticker!
Thank you all so much for reading!