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Publisher: Zoe Hauser (2020)
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Time travel isn’t just for Dr. Who! When four teens try to solve the puzzle of the mysterious wormhole at their school, friendships are tested, reality is checked, and danger is never far away. Hauser delivers a fast, fun debut novel for the Y/A crowd.

Something extraordinary is going on at the Cuniculum Performing Arts Middle School. Well beyond the emotions of the artistic kids trying to find their own direction as artists and performers, far beyond the raging hormones of kids falling in, out and through the throes of first love, some other-worldly happenings are making life at the St. Augustine, Florida school more than a bit weird.

For example, circus animals abruptly appear in the school’s hallways. A 17th Century French courtesan, smelling like a skunk, slaps a student in front of the girl’s horrified mother. Let’s not forget the disappearance of the school’s beloved principal. Then, to top it off, the Bubonic Plague sweeping out of the school’s science labs and forcing the school to close for a month to be disinfected.

To four students, Sephie, Zander, Rori and Iggy, the events are not only abnormal but super-normal, a situation that could only be explained as a wrinkle in time, or more appropriately a wormhole, that allows these strange figures from the past to travel in time to their school. Even more exciting, and perhaps a bit disturbing, the students go back in time using one of the wormholes buried in the school. But can they return to the present, or will they be trapped in the past? Will they ever get home?

This Y/A novel is a clever mixture of facts, fantasy, and teenage angst, plus a healthy dollop of Greek mythology. As strange events keep the school on high alert, the four students plus a teacher travel through time. Some loop to the site of a 1942 circus disaster in Cleveland; others are held hostage in a 1915 entrapment by a nefarious group of astrophysicists. The scientists know the students are from the future but want to keep time travel to themselves.

Sephie, short for Persephone, the Greek goddess of the spring, more or less narrates the book, infusing the novel with her deep attachment to mythology. Her personal story ties the book together. It’s complicated by the complexity of her love life—she loves a boy who loves someone else—but even more pressing is her desire to use the wormhole to go back in time and try to prevent her mother’s death.

Y/A readers will admire this book on several levels. One is the sheer audacity of a book that ties puppy love angst with time travel. Another side is the insertion of historical events and an ongoing treatise about the lives of the ancient Greek gods.

Part of the fun in reading this novel is its inventive characters and locations. Many readers will find their Internet browsers heating up as they check out whether certain situations were authentic and characters were real. (Hint: This reviewer especially liked a character named Alfred Ulixes. Look it up!)

Enjoy reading Galacticab Catastrophe – but watch out for the snakes in Morocco.