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I’m a fan of science fiction and as a historian, time travel plots can leave me rolling my eyes. When I came across Arthur Gonzalez’s The Photo Traveler, I was a bit unsure of how to proceed, but within the first three chapters, I was hooked and didn’t want to stop reading.
Life hasn’t been easy for seventeen-year-old Gavin Hillstone. His adopted father is a drunk and beats him and his adopted sister lies to get her way. They both blame Gavin for the death of his adopted mother and he lives with the guilt knowing he caused her death. One night after a beating, he’s had enough. Finding his original adoption papers, Gavin decides to look for the grandparents who gave him up for adoption. One the way to Washington D.C., he encounters some unsavory characters who ask him for the glass vials and he has no idea what they are talking about. He eludes them and when he arrives in DC, he finds his grandparents are alive. Gavin confronts them and they admit to giving him up to protect him. They then tell him a secret…he’s a photo traveler and as one, he’s able to travel anywhere in the world as long as there’s a physical photograph or a drawing of an event as it occurred. Gavin goes on a journey to find the truth of what happened to his parents and along the way discovers how vital it is not to change the past because of the way it affects the future.
The writing is engaging and Gonzalez definitely is able to put the reader into the mindset of a seventeen-year-old boy. It’s quite easy for a YA science fiction centered book to be filled with clichés, but Gonzales does an excellent job keeping things fresh. The Photo Traveler is also well researched and incorporates aspects of history in the narrative. At one point Gavin travels to 17th century America and the Salem Witch Trials. I cringed when I read where he was going because anyone from the 21st century would stand out and instead of brushing that tidbit aside, Gonzalez addresses it. What’s a 17th century person suppose to think at the height of the witch trials when they see a teenage boy dressed in jeans? I won’t say what happens, but I appreciated the reaction to the incident.
In terms of character development, it’s not thorough, but since this is part of a trilogy, it makes sense to draw the characters over the course of the series. Without a doubt, this book is about Gavin and the journey to find out who he is. We find out how Gavin’s adopted mother died and it will be interesting to see if by chance a picture of the events of that day exists and if it does, will Gavin travel to that specific day? Also I have a feeling there’s more to Gavin’s photography teacher. He took an early interest in Gavin and something just doesn’t sit well with me. I think all readers will be able to associate with Gavin and his need for acceptance. Here’s a teenage boy on the cusp on being an adult who doesn’t know why he was given up. One moment he had parents and a loving home and the in the next instant he has nothing. The heartache he experiences will sadden you and make you want to reach out to hug him.
My favorite quotes:
But since I suck at lying, I was probably as believable as that girl, Cynthia, in our class who constantly shows up with hickies on her neck but keeps swearing she’s still a virgin.
When I open my eyes, a twelve-ton elephant is staring right back at me. It gives me the creeps.
With all works of fiction, especially science fiction, the ability to suspend disbelief is needed and The Photo Traveler is no exception. There are a lot of unanswered questions mostly with regards to Gavin’s mistake and inadvertently changing history. I expected a bit more drawn out discussion pertaining to the subject, but there wasn’t one. Book 2, The Peace Hunter, should touch upon this and I can’t wait to find out what happens next. Arthur Gonzalez has done an excellent job with his debut novel and he’s an author to watch.
Long and Short Reviews welcomes Arthur J Gonzalez, whose debut novel The Photo Traveler was recently released. Leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of the book.
Arthur is currently working on the second book in the Photo Traveler series, called The Peace Hunter. He’s also working on another untitled YA novel dealing with the end of the world, as well as a more adult-geared novel regarding Greek mythology set in the 21st century called The Olympian Chronicles.
“Think True blood of Greek Mythology,” he explained. “Quote me now…it…will…be…EPIC! ? As a young reader, I loved THE ILLUSTRATED MAN and anything surrounding Greek Mythology. The whole fantasy aspect is still there. It’s a way to escape the realities of our own world and imagine what life would be like given these situations.”
When Arthur was growing up, he didn’t want to be a writer; he wanted to be a doctor and went to college for medicine. He thought it’s what he was supposed to do for success.
“The passion I have for creating was never there for medicine,” he told me. “But I learned success shouldn’t be graded on monetary variables, but on the level of fulfillment you have in your life.”
Currently, his favorite author is Veronica Roth.
“It’s not solely due to her writing style and story-telling ability, but what she has done for young authors is amazing,” he said. “She has inspired me, personally. She deserves all the success coming her way. It just goes to show different the publishing world is and long gone are the days are Best-Sellers being older individuals. She represents a new age and I applaud her endlessly for that.”
The hardest part of writing for Arthur is the editing.
“It’s a never ending process! Even after the book is released I find myself editing and critiquing the work. I imagine this is how parents feel when their children grow up and they worry about them feverishly as if they were five,” he told me. “Now I can relate more to my mom when she calls me twenty times in a row because I didn’t pick up the first 18 times and she thought I may have died or fallen or been abducted. Love that crazy lady of mine.”
When Arthur isn’t writing, he likes to laugh and make memories. Because life is so short, he tries to soak every moment he has. He learned at an early age how important this is because his father passed away at 48 years old, without any warning. It was the saddest and scariest day of Arthur’s life and he decided then that he wanted to make sure he enjoyed very breathing moment of his life.
“What is the most surprising thing you discovered while writing your book?” I asked.
“I discovered I have a knack for creating genuine characters. It’s something important to me and (I think) I do a pretty good job at it. (Hopefully others feel the same way and I’m not ‘that guy’ patting himself on the shoulder while everyone laughs,” he said.
Arthur likes the idea of inspiring youth to read. When he was a teenager, he didn’t read often, but he’s come to appreciate reading on a whole different level. Now he’s borderline obsessed with reading.
“What is your most embarrassing moment?” I wondered.
“I was having the best day ever one day after school. It was the third day of my junior high school year. So there I am, crossing the street with the goofiest smile on my face after a successful Student Government meeting and BAM! I get struck by a F-350 pick-up.(Yes F-350!) And you want to know the worst part? I was justhit by a damn car and the first thing I thought of as I peeled myself from the ground was, ‘I hope no one saw that.’ Sometimes, I crack myself up. The goof news- no broken bones, only internal bruising.”
About the Author: THE PHOTO TRAVELER is young adult author Arthur J. Gonzalez’s first novel. Arthur was born and raised in Miami surrounded by his loud Cuban family. He graduated from the University of Florida, where he acquired his coffee obsession and his chocolate hoarding antics. He’s the proud father of one baby girl, Sookie–his miniature schnoodle dog. Arthur is a self-professed goofball who spends 98% of his life laughing. He’s now working on his second novel.
Amazon for Purchase: “http://http://www.amazon.com/The-Photo-Traveler-Series/dp/0988891611/ref=sr_1_35?ie=UTF8&qid=1360886583&sr=8-35&keywords=the+photo+traveler+book”>http://www.amazon.com/The-Photo-Traveler-Series/dp/0988891611/ref=sr_1_35?ie=UTF8&qid=1360886583&sr=8-35&keywords=the+photo+traveler+book
Official website: www.thephototravelerbook.com
“This is one book that I’ll be looking forward to the next one. It literally had me wanting more!