****I received an ARC from the author in exchange for an honest review****
The “Time-Bender” is a quirky young adult sci-fi story with a cast of loveably flawed dorks (in the best way possible). The book follows the main character, Selina, as she makes a wish for a boyfriend. At sixteen, she’s a social outcast, her skin has a blue-ish tinge, and she has ADP which essentially means she avoids most people, think extreme introvert. The only one able to break through her shell is her lifelong friend and neighbor, Alex. Then, her wish is granted and two hunky aliens fall from the sky posing as exchange students. But these two guys competing for Selina’s attention are not all they seem to be as they begin pressuring Selina to leave with them, by any means necessary.
Selina is special, but of course she doesn’t know that, and she’s not special in the way Alex thinks she is. Only the two aliens, Coreg and Marcum, really know her potential, and they know how much their planet could use someone like her to stop the war on their home world. But they don’t know how to tell Selina that, how to make her want to go with them to fight in a war with aliens she had no clue existed. The struggle between Selina wanting to believe these gorgeous guys really like her, and these aliens trying to communicate to her, is more endearing then I thought it would be!
I really love how Chapoton wrote her characters in order to convey the differences between Selina, Coreg, and Marcum. All of Selina’s chapters are in 1st person, and everyone else is in a close 3rd. Normally, this switch can be jarring but the way Chapoton uses it works in her favor and helps keep the book light hearted, and a fun little page turner. Too often you have these alien encounter books where the aliens are a god-like race, they already know everything about earth and the species they have come into contact with, that’s not the case in “The Time Bender”. Yes, Marcum and Coreg have special abilities that humans don’t, but they are assumptions about humans and earth that are incorrect and there are some things about humans they just don’t understand at all. It’s cute to watch them bumble about as these awkward foreign exchange students, and stumble over an unfamiliar language. Selina goes along with the act because she herself is socially awkward, and she wished for a boyfriend and now she may have two! Even though it’s obvious to the reader that these guys aren’t all they appear, you can kind of see why Selina would ignore it when she feels like this is a dream come true, she doesn’t want to look too closely at this gift, so to speak.
There was very little about this cute story that bothered me, and the things that did, were small for the most part. The question of “will Selina fall for…” gets answered pretty early through Selina’s constant denial of that person, so I felt like when things happen, it was old hat. Selina also has the tendency to use “stage cues” or internal emoji speak as a way to use humor to defuse a situation. The stage cues made sense and I liked them, they didn’t happen all that often so it wasn’t distracting. But the emoji speak felt a bit unnecessary, if that wasn’t in the book, nothing would be lost. It happens even less frequently than the sage cues, so hopefully it disappears in the later books in this series. The only thing that genuinely bothered me was the portrayal of Selina’s mentally challenged little brother, Buddy. I may be overly sensitive to it as I have a brother who is on the autism spectrum, but Buddy’s portrayal felt a bit insensitive and didn’t have much of an impact on Selina or the story, so I was confused as to the decision to give Buddy special needs to begin with. That may be rectified in later books where we get to know Buddy better, but we’ll see. Also, certain revelations towards the end feel overly convenient, the author does tease them so they aren’t completely out of left field, but it still felt a bit too coincidental for me to 100% buy that all aliens happen to be drawn to Michigan.
I love how Chapoton blended this light hearted sci-fi tale with a young adult coming of age with some mild flavors of fantasy. The author really makes it work for her in a great way and Selina is one of those underdogs I think a lot of young people will identify with, and I hope we get to see her grow more through her struggles of figuring out who she is, and who she wants to be. I just wish the cover was better as it does the story no justice! I had a lot of fun reading “The Time Bender”, and because I can’t wait to see what happens next for Selina, Alex, and Marcum, I’m giving it 5 stars!