Hazards of Time Travel
by Oates, Joyce Carol

The National Book Award-winning author of We Were the Mulvaneys presents the story of a recklessly idealistic girl who tests the limits of her oppressively controlled, dystopian world only to fall fatefully in love. 50,000 first printing.

*Starred Review* Adriane knows that it's risky to reveal that one thinks for one's self, yet, as high-school valedictorian, she cannot play it safe and is promptly arrested for her inquisitive graduation speech. Deemed an Exiled Individual, which is slightly better than a Deleted Individual, she is sent to Zone 9 and shackled to a new identity and tyrannical rules. Traumatized and bewildered, she struggles to survive as Mary Ellen, a freshman at a Wisconsin college where the library is filled with actual books and phones are enormous and stationary. Yes, Adriane has been exiled to the past, to 1959, 80 years back. Adriane/Mary Ellen is nearly paralyzed with fear, until she becomes convinced that a young, attractive psychology professor is a fellow Exile. Within a tautly suspenseful, wryly incisive tale of a daring truth-seeker and forbidden love, of the dawn of behavioral psychology and the weaponizing of virtual realities, Oates probes the diabolical, shape-shifting nature of authoritarianism and the timeless valor of dissent. While in this clever, brain-twisting, Poe-like fable she looks to the past and the future to dramatize the vulnerability of the psyche, the fragility of freedom, and the catastrophic consequences of repressing intelligence, independence, and creativity, what Oates illuminates is the present. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Oates is always provocative, but this tensile dystopian tale will magnetize readers in a whole new mode. Copyright 2018 Booklist Reviews.

A defiant young woman in near-future America is sentenced to hard time in the 1950s Midwest. Oates (A Book of American Martyrs, 2017, etc.) needn't mention Donald Trump to make the target of this dark allegory clear. The United States has become a repressive regime that's run by oligarchs, ranks its citizenry by skin tone, and "vaporizes" dissenters. The narrator, Adriane, is set to graduate high school as valedictorian until it's discovered that her speech is filled with impertinent questions. (Like, say, Why does America fight so many wars?) Found guilty of "Treason and Questioning of Authority," Adriane is sentenced to a re-education camp: a women's college in central Wisconsin in 1959, eight decades in the past. (The nature of time-travel technology is initially vague, which makes for a potent late plot twist.) Given a new identity, Adriane is expected to be an Eisenhower-era good girl and not make a fuss. "I would be the ideal student—the ideal ‘coed,' " she writes. "I would never betray or even feel the mildest curiosity." As in any good prison-break story, though, her compliance doesn't last long: She finds common cause with a psychology professor who she suspects has been similarly exiled. Oates takes some pleasure in imagining Adriane's culture shock: women fussing over their hair, bafflement about books on paper. But the overall mood is somber, stressing the point that the era those MAGA hats suggest was so great was often oppressive and mean-spirited, particularly toward women. Oates dwells much, sometimes ponderously so, on B.F. Skinner's then-popular concept of behaviorism, which slotted humans as dim machines lacking in free will. And Oates' late style, thick with em dashes and exclamatory prose, flirts with melodrama. But forgivably so: Are we not living in emotionally demanding times? More shambling than dystopian classics by Orwell, Atwood, and Ishiguro but energized by a similar spirit of outrage. Copyright Kirkus 2018 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

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