Time Between Us is described by the blurb as The Time Traveller’s Wife for teens. Anna and Bennett are separated by sixteen years, never destined to meet, but something draws them together. Bennett is an interloper in Anna’s world. He belongs in San Francisco, living his teenage years in the twenty-first century. He shouldn’t be enrolled at the same Chicago school as Anna in 1995.
Their first meeting happens whilst Anna is out running before school. One moment he is there, the next he’s gone. When he turns up at school he seems to know who she is, but denies ever being at the track that morning. So begins a somewhat frustrating relationship between the pair; Bennett blows hot and cold with Anna. Despite her suspicions about him, Anna can’t help falling for him. They obviously have chemistry together, but Bennett tries to hold back to protect his secrets. A life-threatening incident for Anna forces him to make a decision; to protect her means telling her everything.
The first thing that struck me when I picked up the book was that I must have read the dates wrong. Going back to 1995 from 2012 didn’t seem like time travel at all, just a trip down memory lane. 1995 isn’t history to me, it’s part of my adult life! Bennett travels back to gigs to see his favourite bands, like Green Day. Fancy being too young to remember Green Day in their early days. Anyway, once I’d got over the shock at the realisation that I am nearing the end of my fourth decade on this earth (actually I haven’t got over the shock at all) I did enjoy the story.
Anna is a nice character, she’s sporty, self-sufficient, has a good relationship with her family and works hard. Her best friend Emma is the outgoing type, interested in clothes and make-up, likes a bit of gossip but is intensely loyal. Bennett does cause a bit of a rift between the two, but nothing lasting or insurmountable. Emma is uncertain about Bennet at first, unsurprisingly given his slightly erratic behaviour.
I do have a bit of a problem with something that happens in the book. I’ll skirt around the specifics to avoid spoilers, but basically Anna acts a bit coercively with Bennett, getting him to do something that goes against his own ethical or moral code. Despite his very clear explanation to her as to why he won’t do it, she refuses to accept it. When, later, there is an unforeseen consequence, as he had said there would be, Anna is like ‘oh, I feel a little bad about that but never mind, back to me and my problems’. I was irritated by her refusal to understand Bennett’s point of view and the lack of concern was a bit of a false note for me. When you read it you might agree with her ‘greater good’ argument, but I have my doubts.
Another little gripe occurred when I started thinking about the age difference between the two of them. The book starts with a vignette of Anna in her thirties giving the teenage Bennett a note. Sixteen years is a big difference between sixteen and thirty-two, but thirty-two is hardly old. Again, I don’t want to be spoilery about it, but no way is your life over if you break up with boy when you’re sixteen. And no way is your life over, if when you are thirty-two you feel a bit dissatisfied so far. There is still plenty of time to do something about it. This is maybe what Anna is trying to do with the letter, but the way it works out in the end bugged me a bit.
I don’t want to really be down on the book though, I did enjoy it. The romance is quite a slow burn, and the ‘will they won’t they’ get together is sustained well. I did like Anna’s character overall, she’s pretty regular and normal, in a good way. I would categorise the book as teen romance with a time-travel twist, because the romance is the main focus I think. I also think I would have enjoyed it more when I was a teenager myself. Now I’m getting on a bit I found the first love thing less engaging, and I wasn’t overly emotionally involved. That may well say more about me than it does about the book!