"Um... then there was the shaman who thought I needed to be exorcised. That one was fabulous; he claimed he could do it with pickle juice and ashes."
Michael shook his head in disbelief. "Where does your brother find these people? He's clearly a shrewd businessman—why would he hire such obvious frauds?"
"Desperation? My boarding school was in Sedona. No shortage of 'spirtual healers' there. I guess the news that a concerned brother was throwing around a surplus of cash to help his loopy sister spread pretty fast. And none of the people using traditional methods could help me. They all wanted to drug me into a vegetative state or commit me." I let go of the iron bar and bit down on my bottom lip, stopping short of telling him they succeeded, angry with myself for being so honest. If he was a fake like all the others, maybe he would feel guilty and go away before inflicting any damage.
Author: Myra McEntire
Synopsis: Emerson sees dead people, but it's not the normal haunting—it's the manifestation of a genetic gift for time travel. The troubles are: she can't always tell the difference between the dead people and the living, which causes difficulties in company; she's got a magnetic connection to a gorgeous boy with a similar gift, but he's not allowed to date her; and there's an organization who can help her, but they're currently run by an evil scientist. It's a good thing she's tough. But she'll need more than her karate skills and bravery to go back in time and save a good man from being murdered, especially when it's hard to know who to trust.
Notes: McEntire blends the classic science fiction concept of time travel with the fantasy concept of superpowers, and comes up with Emerson Cole—spunky, short, and gifted with an apparent curse. The unusual construct of the supernatural element in Hourglass is one of its strongest points, and while the heroine's first-person voice reads very similarly to that of other YA protagonists, she's engaging enough to carry her tale.
Emerson's world is an odd and frightening place: a small, restored Civil War town in the South, where the old buildings bring out a host of long-dead occupants to mingle with the living. Of course, no one but Emerson sees them. She's got just one friend her age—the one who stuck by her when she held a shouting match with an invisible person in her public school cafeteria. She's also trying to hide the fact that she's weaned herself off her medication, preferring to see the dead people rather than live in a constant stupor.
Into this world comes Michael, who manages to be both mind-bogglingly handsome and the main counterpart to Emerson's gift in ways I cannot describe without spoilers. Along with all his general awesomeness, though, Michael brings a list of appalling revelations for Emerson, and he needs her help for a dangerous time-traveling project.
Generally, comparing even popular books to the mega-bestsellers is a bad idea, but the romance in Hourglass seems purposely formed to echo Twilight. Hyper-attractive male character with superpowers and a magical draw toward the female protagonist, check. Big, solid, down-to-earth young man in decided competition with the hero, check. Lonely, unpopular girl attracted to both but over-the-top obsessed with the one, check. Loving but sometimes misguided guardian uninterested in allowing our heroine to date her one and only, check. Empath character available to help settle the girl's emotions now and again, check. Versions of the earthy-vs-ethereal love triangle pop up a lot, but this is the most obvious I've seen; it was impossible, reading it, to avoid spotting likenesses.
For most readers, the romance in Hourglass will probably succeed, but it unfortunately struck me as more sexy than romantic. Bella's favorite word to describe Edward is 'beautiful', a humanizing term; Emerson's 'gorgeous' is a little more superficial, and Lily's 'delicious' is plainly objectifying. It's true that by the end of the story, Emerson echoes Bella's willingness for self-sacrifice, but it's also clear that while Emerson and Michael would give their lives for each other, neither is open to the sacrifices of chastity.
Emerson also seems designed as the anti-Bella: forceful, independent, and emphatic on the point that she doesn't need a man. That she wants a man is obvious, of course, but she's got to be clear from the beginning that she can kick his butt. While any woman would love the ability to flip a grown man over her shoulder, very few would consistently reject their own man's protective side. Some small acknowledgement of this would have made Emerson a touch more sympathetic as a romantic heroine.
That aside, however, she's likable overall as a character, especially in her desire to live life with her head clear. Her perspective on "being crazy" makes a strong appeal for the reader's sympathy, and her actions toward the end of the book are very comprehensible. Other characters—Lily, Kaleb, Ava, Liam—attract some much-deserved notice, too, with a number of unresolved minor threads left for the sequel.
The book itself is an engaging, readable little supernatural mystery, certainly interesting enough to provide an enjoyable afternoon.
Recommendation: Read it for a light, interesting combination of time travel and romantic suspense.