Luke has just returned to school after being gone for a month. His sister died and his parents have shut down. He wants something to feel familiar again, but even the bullying he’s regularly subjected to feels off. When a new student, Eddie, tries to intervene, Luke just wants everyone to leave him alone. Taking refuge in an empty classroom, Luke throws his backpack out of frustration, but the backpack hangs suspended in the air. It’s not only the backpack that has stopped; it’s everyone around him as well.
Not knowing at all what to do, Luke confides in his two closest friends and when they test him, Luke sees something that he wasn’t supposed to. Now Luke has so much to navigate. He’s paired with Eddie for an extra credit assignment and dealing with feelings for him, as well as his long time friend Marcos. Luke doesn’t know how to tell the whole truth to everyone and he knows he’s surely in way over his head.
I had high expectations as this book opened to the scene of Luke returning to school after his sister’s death. He didn’t tell his friends he was returning to school, but the bullies are there waiting to torment Luke about everything from the color of his skin to his sexuality. In an extreme moment of frustration, Luke discovers he can stop time. The time stopping aspect was the main draw for me here with this book, but it was not developed and the overall story was not at all engaging to me. I couldn’t find one area of this story that opened up for me to get into it and at any moment I could have closed it and walked away.
After the initial shock of Luke realizing that he can stop time, he tells his friends and they test him to prove it. It’s during one of these tests that Luke stumbles over something that he wasn’t supposed to see. This is then not developed further until it becomes the pinnacle focus at the end of the book.
There was a lot added into this story, but nothing was developed. Eddie and Luke work on a drama project together and there were endless pages of them going over the same monologue. Luke becomes attracted to Eddie, but the journey of that storyline wasn’t handled well for me either. There were also many pages of characters discussing a movie they went to see and there was not much to hold my attention. Luke has always been attracted to his friend Marcos and then that story is worked in. However, Marcos wasn’t a prominent on page character until, again, toward the end, where his sexuality then became a focal point, but there was no true exploration of his character.
There is bullying here and the bully, Wes, is a flat, one-dimensional character. His sister, Dee, is Luke’s other best friend and if she’s present she can get Wes to tone down the bullying, but then she continues to make excuses for Wes and does nothing to attempt to fully resolve the issue.
The pivotal point of the story was supposed to be the fact that Luke can stop or hold time as they call it. It’s the title of the book, yet it’s not explored at all. Luke can stop time. That’s all we know. We are never told how or why or what he’s going to do with it going forward. It just is something he can now do and being that the entire book was hinged on this, the whole thing fell flat. There was then another thread opened up toward the end about Eddie’s family and the book was off in so many different directions and there was little focus.
Being a young adult book, I can appreciate that I may not be the main target audience. But, I have read other YA books that worked a whole lot better for me and then could be offered as a recommendation for the YA audience. This book didn’t deliver what was intended and then unfortunately didn’t deliver a story that held my interest at all.