The Bottom Line: A quirky romantic suspense novel told through the lens of time travel.
Time Out! is the story of Wally Stephens’ unusual journey back in time. Faced with his 10-year high school reunion, he finds himself disappointed by how little he’s accomplished in life so far. He’s also obsessed with Cindy Connor, a girl he admired from afar but never had the courage to approach.
If you’re guessing Wally will go back to high school as a more mature, cooler version of himself and work up the courage to talk to Cindy, guess again. Credit author Kevin Creager for defying many of the usual time travel tropes. Instead, Wally ends up at Bradford State, the college Cindy went to, where he’ll attend classes. The program helping Wally go back in time advises him to avoid running into Cindy. Instead, the plan is for him to first acclimate to the period before making any moves. As you’d expect, his journey back into time is filled with misadventures and opportunities that make for entertaining reading.
Similar to the way Wes Anderson often juxtaposes seemingly out-of-place technologies and social norms, making it hard to pin down a specific time period in his films, Creager makes the specific time period being jumped from and to somewhat elusive. Wally lives in a time when hardcopy letters by standard post seem to be common, while suggesting that significant advances have been made in TVs, cell phones and other contemporary electronic devices in a span of less than a decade. Yet, as the owner of a bookstore, Wally doesn’t exactly have a grasp on contemporary technologies himself. As a whole, it’s an effective technique that keeps readers focused on the story at hand rather than what Wally could be using to his advantage based on historical events.
While the quirky budding romance creates most of the book’s suspense, Creager also delivers an interesting subplot about a mysterious set of twins who married brothers and now may face mortal danger.