Review of The First State of Being

The First State of Being The First State of Being
by Erin Entrada Kelly
Intermediate, Middle School    Greenwillow    272 pp.
3/24    9780063337312    $19.99
e-book ed.  9780063337336    $9.99

It’s the summer of 1999. Twelve-year-old Delawarean Michael has worries, chief among them the approach of Y2K. What if everything falls apart? Family finances are precarious, so he’s amassing a stash of groceries acquired through shoplifting. Then he meets an odd new kid. Ridge appears disoriented, as well he might, as he has time-traveled there from two hundred years in the future. In transcripts of conversations and documents from that future, we discover that Ridge went rogue and time-traveled without permission, putting himself and possibly the whole history of civilization at risk. There’s a technical blip that might trap the traveler at the end of the twentieth century. A time-travel plot always involves logical conundrums, and Kelly (Those Kids from Fawn Creek, rev. 3/22) neatly grounds the mind-bending what-ifs of cause, effect, and the nature of time with real, present relationships and situations, kids with a secret, and a major problem to solve. It’s a well-crafted adventure surrounding a big philosophical idea with a side of middle-grade romance. The non-dystopian (although still fragile) vision of the future is tantalizing: cures for allergies and the common cold, progress on plastic pollution, women taking the lead in science and technology. (But apparently teens and tweens will still drive their parents up the wall.)

From the May/June 2024 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Sarah Ellis
Sarah Ellis is a Vancouver-based writer and critic, recently retired from the faculty of The Vermont College of Fine Arts.

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