Source: Review copy from the publisher.
Back Cover Description (highly modified):
What would you do if you could travel through time?
Jax and Isaiah, teen boys from the world’s top science academy, are creating a time machine for their science fair project. Their friends, two girls named JT and Mickey, bet them that their hover-board experiment will beat the boys' doomed-to-fail project in the fair. The race is on to see who will win...
When the boys attempt to go back to 70,000,000 BC to see dinosaurs, the time machine fails though they're sure it should have worked. Then they try to go back 4,500 years so they can witness the pyramids being built as research for an assignment for another class.
Imagine their shock when they come face-to-face with dinosaurs after all! Did the machine glitch and send them back to 70,000,000 BC? No time to test it out--Isaiah needs saving from an angry dinosaur, and Jax will need to convince the girls to help if he's going to save him.
The Time Machine is a science-fiction adventure for boys and girls about age 8 to 14. This fast-paced, humorous adventure had an anime/manga flavor to it. There were black and white illustrations--about one per chapter, and the chapters were short.
The world-building was a bit sketchy (it's vague as to when and where the "present day" events occur), but I don't think most kids will notice or care since Middle Grade fiction often spends less time on such details. The characters were engaging, interesting, and acted in realistic ways. I cared about what happened to them. I also liked the ending. It wasn't necessarily what one might expect, and it turned out that way for a good reason.
There was a Christian element that was worked realistically into the story. Jax refused to go to church like his mom wanted him to because he didn't understand why a loving, all-powerful God would allow his father to die. Also, JT believed the machine really took them back 4,500 years while the others believed the machine glitched and sent them back to the previous entry, 70,000,000 BC, because there were dinosaurs. However, these issues were only briefly touched on. Rather than slowing the pace to give detailed answers in the story itself, the story acted more like a potential discussion-starter.
There was no bad language or sex. Overall, I'd recommend this novel as well-written and exciting clean reading for kids.
If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.
A Teen's Review (added 6/28/10):
After finishing my review, I gave this book to a girl who's turning 13 years old next month. She read the entire novel in one night and told me the next morning, "It was SO AWESOME! I put it down and tried to go to sleep, but I just couldn't until I knew how everything turned out. So I finished it. And what a twist at the very end! When is the next book out?" She recommends it to both boys and girls.
Excerpt from Chapter One
After pressing his thumb to the biometric scanner that opened his locker, Jax Thompson rummaged madly through its contents. Amid the many loose papers, textbooks, candy bar wrappers, and his jacket and backpack, he knew he should be able to find his physics homework. Where is it? If I weren't spending so much time trying to solve the problems with that machine, I would probably remember where I put it.
He patted his pockets, rifled through books and pulled at his hair in frustration. About to give up, he noticed the corner of his assignment sticking out of a book. As he reached for it, the sound of running footsteps seized his attention.
"Jax!" Isaiah Weber, his best friend since seventh grade, skidded to a halt just short of crashing into him. "I figured it out."
Jax turned and grabbed his friend's shoulders. "What do you mean you figured it out?"
"I mean I know what's wrong with the machine."
Jax's hold tightened as he looked into his friend's excited face. "Izzy, are you saying that this thing is going to work?"
Read the prologue and more from chapter one.