This review was originally published on The Rainbow Hub on May 19th, 2015. I have been given permission to reprint the review here. Enjoy!
First, let’s get this out of the way. This novel needs a content warning for child abuse, along with blatant homophobia and racism. These are pervasive throughout the novel. Moving on:
The Time Slip Girl follows the adventures of Dara, an African American millennial mourning the loss of her long term partner Jenny. On a trip with her brother to England, Dara slips through time back to the year 1908. Now, she is faced with a world struggling for rights in her multiple levels of oppression, as she desperately clamors to get back home. She is taken in by a family and one of their tenants Agnes, whom she develops feelings for. As Dara and Agnes grow fonder of one another, the question becomes whether or not Dara wants to head back to the year 2014 at all.
This is the first time I have read a time travel based novel about a woman of color, and the experience was a little surreal. The author makes it easy to imagine the sights, the smells, and the atmosphere of 1908, including a very real portrayal of racism and sexism. The novel feels well researched, which provides a great deal of leverage on a novel. The main strength of the novel is the atmosphere and emotion. You can feel Dara’s despair and frustration at her situation. You can smell the streets of London. It’s a shame that other aspects of the novel don’t fall into this camp.
Fantasy, in general, has to be written with rules. Things can’t just happen without rhyme or reason. And there simply aren’t enough rules for this novel to make it work. The way that time travel happens in this novel, in this case, tripping through cracks in time, is simply too random. Additionally, the way that time travel works in this novel could have made for some really interesting situations, which are hypothesized in the novel itself, like ending up in the wrong time, or interacting with different ages from the original at the time of travel. Unfortunately, this novel took the safe route and wrapped everything up in the neatest of bows that just grated on my nerves. There was the potential for a really compelling and interesting look at time travel, and it ultimately fell flat.
I will say that Agnes, the main white protagonist of the novel, feels like a real person in the best way. She is sweet and kind, but has spent a lot of her life hurting, but she also makes decisions that feel real. Her relationship with Dara is believable…to a point. The novels desire to rush into a relationship makes the last half of the novel really predictable, which hurts the story. Agnes also seems way too accepting, and her lack of struggle with anything, from her relationship with race, to time travel, and to her own homosexuality. She comes off a little too perfect. Yes, she makes mistakes, but she is immediate to correction and change, which really doesn’t help the tension of the book.
I could say other things about this novel, picking fault. That there are too many named characters, most of whom are impossible to remember due to the sheer volume of them. I could talk about how the novel drags through large chunks of the novel, and this ultimately weighs on the reader.
Now, if you like time travel novels, or novels about turn of the century England, this novel may be for you. And you may love it, and if that is the case, I am glad you were able to connect and enjoy it. But this book was really not my cup of tea. I don’t regret reading this novel, but I also wouldn’t pick it up again.