The Time Hackers by Gary Paulsen

The Time HackersReading level: 5.6
Lexile: 880
Genre: Science fiction, adventure
ELL-Friendly: Mostly
Library recommendation: Middle school

Goodreads summary:

You ever open your locker and find that some joker has left something really weird inside? Seventh-grader Dorso Clayman opens his locker door to find a dead body. Thirty seconds later it disappears. It’s not the first bizarre thing that has appeared in his locker and then vanished. Something’s going on.

Somebody has decided to make Dorso and his buddy Frank the target of some strange techno-practical jokes. The ultimate gamesters have hacked into the time line, and things from the past are appearing in the present. Soon, the jokes aren’t funny anymore—they’re dangerous. Dorso and Frank have got to beat the time hackers at their own game by breaking the code, before they get lost in the past themselves.

The good:

The dialogue between Frank and Dorso (who names their kid Dorso?) is funny and witty. The plot is fast-paced and fairly engaging. I think this book could be really interesting for middle school sci-fi fans.

Bringing historical events and figures to the present as holograms sounds AMAZING. C’mon scientists, make this a reality!

As a cat lover, I thoroughly enjoyed the scenes of Darling dressing the cat up in outfits. It was totally unnecessary to the storyline, but I got a kick out of it.

The first few pages are fantastic: Dorso opens his school locker and finds a dead body, but he hardly reacts. And the reader is like, “WHAT IS GOING ON? I MUST READ MORE.” I bet kids would be hooked if the teacher read the first pages out loud as part of a book talk.

The bad:

Why does Frank obsess over seeing naked female historical figures? It really is an obsession to the point that it’s just…too much. It’s not inappropriate, per se, but Frank’s constant mentioning of seeing naked women is obnoxious. I don’t care if that’s what all 12 year old boys are thinking about; they can keep it inside their heads.

I couldn’t get into the characters much. I thought they were funny, but that was about it. The book was so short that it was more about the plot and less about the characters, so it wasn’t a huge deal as these boys put themselves in danger. I just didn’t care.

Speaking of danger, these boys were trying to stop the demise of the universe, but I still couldn’t get into it. I guess I just didn’t understand what the gamesters/hackers were doing. I mean, I understood it, but why would anyone risk so much to play a game? Silly.

What even happened at the end? I just… I’m no sci-fi expert, but it seems like The Time Hackers was too simplistic and short for what it was trying to do. A longer, more in-depth book may have gotten me more involved with the characters and plot.

Anywho, the vocab is fine for ELLs, although the book requires high comprehension for the reader to understand the intricacies of what’s going on.

This is my second book of the 2014 TBR Pile Reading Challenge hosted by Bookish.

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