Johnny and the Bomb, Terry Pratchett, (1996,245 pages) is the third book in the Johnny Maxwell trilogy. I have not read the other two which I believe do not involve time travel. The series features a group of friends: Johnny, Kirsty, Bigmac, Wobbler, and Yo-less. My favorite aspect of the book was the banter between the friends, which was often hilarious. The characters were vivid and I didn’t feel lost because I hadn’t read the first two books.
Twelve-year-old Johnny Maxwell has a knack for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. This has never been more true than when he finds himself in his hometown on May 21, 1941, over forty years before his birth
An accidental time traveler, Johnny knows his history. He knows England is at war, and he knows that on this day German bombs will fall on the town. It happened. It’s history. And as Johnny and his friends quickly discover, tampering with history can have unpredictable–and drastic–effects on the future.
But letting history take its course means letting people die. What if Johnny warns someone and changes history? What will happen to the future? If Johnny uses his knowledge to save innocent lives by being in the right place at the right time, is he doing the right thing?
Mixing nail-biting suspense with outrageous humor, Terry Pratchett explores a classic time-travel paradox in Johnny Maxwell’s third adventure.
Although the storyline had built-in tension, what with the kids trying to prevent a bomb going off and all, I actually didn’t find it that suspenseful. Perhaps the humor, which was often wry and fleeting, unusual for a YA story, impeded the suspense building. I couldn’t take the plot that seriously.
Now I understand that some British books are more British than others. Pratchett uses a lot of British lingo. Although I saw the movie Trainspotting, I still had to look up what it meant to call someone a trainspotter. There were several other words that were unfamiliar to me. The unfamiliar terms created tiny gaps in my understanding of the story. I didn’t mind, but I think some American teens might not stick with the book for this reason.
I appreciated that the action moved quickly in this novel. There was no fluff. The dialogue was tight and snappy. Yet I was confused a couple times re who was speaking and which time period the characters were in. A couple more sentences of clarification would not have been a bad thing. Also there was one subplot that seemed to just stop abruptly. Maybe its resolution was too subtle for me. I had some unanswered questions at the end of the book as well.
A final quibble I had with the book was that Bigmac, who is described as, “one of the last three skinheads in Blackbury” wore a swastika on his jacket. Maybe in Britain in the 80’s or 90’s it was not uncommon for youth to wear this symbol just to look tough? But reading the book today it makes no sense and to have it described in a humorous context offended me.
Book blogger Charlotte disagreed with me in that she feels you should read the first two books in the series before you attempt Johnny and the Bomb. See her review here.
If you’re still in a reading mood, you might want to check out this brief interesting article about the author here.