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In her debut novel, Carolyn O’Doherty has created a fascinating world where time isn’t as set as we believe. REWIND is a solid YA science fiction with a heavy dash of suspense that will keep readers on the edge of their seat.

Alex Manning was born with a rare gift. Known as a spinner, she can freeze and rewind time. She and others like her are feared and hated in equal measure for their abilities. Tested at birth, spinners are taken from their parents as infants and raised in secure Centers, where they can be monitored and tested. The only time they’re let out, is to work with law enforcement to rewind crimes.

Each spinner is paired with an officer and Alex hit the jackpot with Agent Ross. He values her skills and treats her like a real partner. His real goal is to hunt down a prolific and dangerous killer who has managed to evade capture for years. It’s a case that will take time. Time that Alex doesn’t have, since no spinner lives past the age of 20. Ever.

"O’Doherty has created an interesting world with a cast of compelling imaginative debut that is solidly entertaining, and will find an audience within a wide range of readers."

When Agent Ross offers Alex a chance for experimental medication, she suddenly sees a possible future for herself. But when this new treatment produces a side effect in her abilities that would terrify the public and put all spinners at risk, Alex has to ask herself if it’s worth the risk.

Within the first chapter, O’Doherty skillfully shows us what life as a spinner is like. She takes us through a rewind. She lets us see how people treat Alex, and how different Agent Ross is in that regard. We learn that spinners are “leashed” and that controlling time has side effects. It’s a concise and important introduction that allows the reader to fall completely into the story immediately. While there is a lot of information, it is written into the story fluidly, so it doesn’t feel overwhelming or take away from the reading.

Even though Alex is a spinner with abilities we don’t actually have, she feels very real as a teenager. Her reactions, thought processes and decisions all feel normal and within the spectrum of how a teenager would behave. I really liked that she felt like a 16-year-old. It makes her character relatable and realistic. Which makes this an excellent coming of age story. Alex has to face situations and unravel some difficult truths about people she trusts. Her choices propel her forward and change her, taking away some of the innocence and naivety of childhood. She has to put her own thoughts, feelings and desires behind her in order to move forward.

I love the blend of science fiction but with the fast pace and suspense of a thriller. The ideas and world building are easy to grasp and understand, making this very approachable science fiction. However, there is a very sinister undertone throughout the book, not just in the plot twists, but in how society treats these kids in general. Which makes it read like a dystopian, but instead of some distant future, we’re in an alternate present reality. This merging of genres works really well, making for a highly entertaining read.

Outside of Alex, the entire cast of characters are complex and believable. We see a wide range of personalities in the kids and the adults around them. We also see a broad spectrum of reactions to the kids themselves, which feel depressingly real. I really enjoyed that while there are definite bad guys presented, O’Doherty wasn’t afraid to offer an exploration of the murkier grey area where good people make bad choices.

REWIND is the first in a series ending in a bit of a cliffhanger. I’m very anxious to read the next book to see where Alex, Agent Jones and Dr. Barnard go next. The ending is satisfying with enough room to explore both the plot and deeper societal world building. O’Doherty has created an interesting world with a cast of compelling characters. This is an imaginative debut that is solidly entertaining, and will find an audience within a wide range of readers.

Reviewed by Jena Brown on April 26, 2018

by Carolyn O'Doherty