War between Ohio and Virginia? In Beckie’s world, it could happen any day. Justin’s seen enough alternate timelines to know that, as a Time Trader traveling through the many realities of how Earth’s history could have turned out.
Justin and his mom travel to Beckie’s alternate to make sure that researchers there hadn’t discovered Crosstime secrets and to help improve race relations. That North America is a crazy-quilt of big and little countries, and there are certainly no equal rights. If you weren’t white and male, you were powerless (except in Mississippi...strange, strange Mississippi).
This alternate never saw the states become united under the Constitution, so Beckie and her grandmother must have passports and visas and permission-to-travel letters for every border crossing between the civilized nation of California and Grandma’s hometown in rural Virginia. The “cousin” who gives them a ride across the bridge from Ohio gives her the creeps…the big guns hidden in his car give her the chills.
Beckie is glad to meet someone her own age when Justin visits the aunt and uncle she’s staying with. Justin is careful to speak like the locals, trying to blend in. Soon, they’re both glad that they met.
Suddenly, people in border towns start dying of a mysterious fever and Ohio is blamed for it. As Virginia soldiers roll in and bombing begins, Beckie and her ever-grumbling grandma search for a safe place, Justin is separated from his mom with communication lines cut, and the fever is confirmed as the plague. Plague! Who has a cure for the plague?
Will Beckie ever get home to California? Will Justin and his mom find their way through time to their world? Can Justin tell Beckie where he’s really from without poking holes in the fabric of time?
Turtledove is the master of alternate history, and his "Time Traders" series takes readers to fascinating timelines that truly make you wonder… what if?
Recommended by: Katy Manck, Librarian-at-Large (retired academic/corporate/school librarian), Gilmer, Texas, USA