Blowback ’07 by Brian Meehl is a stunning start to an exciting new series.
Time travel is a popular theme in fiction – YA and otherwise – and Blowback ’07 stands out immediately within the sub-genre for its original plot and charismatic heroes, Arky and Iris. The context of the story is revealed rather quickly, and we soon learn that Iris is in possession of a family heirloom – the Jongler cor anglais – a musical instrument with unknown powers that their mother left to the twins before she disappeared.
Arky and Iris don’t always get along very well, and their sibling banter is very well written, establishing an interesting dynamic between the two almost immediately. Iris has a bit of a crush on Arky’s friend, Matt, the star quarterback, but he already has a girlfriend, Kelly. That doesn’t stop Iris – with her self-confessed synesthetic abilities that occasionally give her “visions” – from performing a bit of a solo session for Matt on the family’s ancient cor anglais. However, much to her surprise, the instrument takes control and transports Matt a century into the past. The first 50 pages or so are dense with character development, but the action picks up after Matt’s disappearance.
The twins must put aside their petty sibling differences and try to discover the secrets of the cor anglais, and find a way to bring Matt back from the past. From that point forward, the book time-hops between 1907 and the present, and the book becomes doubly fascinating because there are essentially two stories going on at the same time. Matt ends up having to play football for Pop Warner, and ends up playing in the Ivy League, while struggling to adapt to life in the early 20th century.
Being trapped in time isn’t the only danger, however: he also pushes back against cultural stereotypes when he falls in love with a young Indian woman. The multi-layered significance of certain interactions and scenes within this book make it feel very real and relatable. Even if you remove the time-traveling elements, it’s a powerful story about growing up in a challenging and unpredictable world.
These young characters are at the apex of their teenage insecurities and struggles, learning about family and loss, the pangs of impossible love and the power of time to heal all wounds. These messages are explored by the characters in memorable ways. Balancing serious lessons with plenty of jokes and snappy dialogue, the author is able to deliver a meaningful tale without compromising the flow of the story.
Meehl has an ear for language and dialogue, and can paint a scene incredibly well, from typical high school parties to the main street of an early 20th-century town. The vivid descriptions of the book, and the rich vocabulary put on display by the author, make reading most of this book a pleasure. While the writing can occasionally slip into a simplistic or overly casual style at times, it actually works within the context of the book – a playful, sibling adventure. As the start of a series, Blowback ’07 delivers enough intrigue and action to satisfy readers, while also keeping plenty of secrets left unveiled, ensuring that readers will be eager to read the next two books.