by Marisa de los Santos, David Teague
HarperCollins Publishers (April 29, 2014)
Fiction * Mystery * Time Travel * Fantasy
Audience: Grades 5-8
When thirteen-year-old Margaret's father is unfairly sentenced to death by the cruel Judge Biggs, she is determined to save him, even if it means using her family's secret-and forbidden-ability to time travel. With the help of her best friend, Charlie, and his grandpa Josh, Margaret goes back to a time when Judge Biggs was a young boy and tries to prevent the chain of events that transformed him into a corrupt, jaded man.
Carolyn's thoughts on this book:
The book opens with the main character, Margaret, watching as her father is handed down the death sentence for a crime he never committed. As a scientist, Margaret’s father was in charge of ensuring that the fracking done in their small Arizona town was done safely and legally. However, when he discovered that fracking was done neither safely nor legally, he revealed everything; in retribution, Victory Fuels (the energy company he worked for) framed him for arson and murder. There is one thing he has going for him, though: Margaret, like the rest of her family, possesses the ability to travel back in time. She travels back to the 1930’s , wherein an attempt to prevent a young Lucas Biggs from becoming the evil, bitter judge that she knows.
I loved the fascinating premise but also the beautiful solution presented to such a complicated situation. I appreciated that instead of acting in anger or retribution, Margaret decides to act with compassion and understanding. Because of her emotional maturity, Margaret is able to look past (pun intended!) the judge’s actions against her father to see that there is an underlying problem that goes back to his youth. I found her sensitivity towards others and her actions to be a pleasant surprise; all too often, characters of her age are immature and lash out when upset (usually to teach the general lesson to “be in more control of your emotions”), but I also liked the subtle political messages.
While fracking wasn’t discussed too much in the book, Margaret’s father’s discovery and subsequent trial portrays fracking (and corporations) in a negative light. During her trip to the 1930’s, Margaret sees the sad results of the mistreatment of coal workers (when they go on strike to protest unfair treatment of an injured coal miner, they are fired and evicted); thus, corporations are portrayed as faceless entities that have the potential to use their power for evil.
Overall, Saving Lucas Biggs was a surprisingly excellent read. The mixture of time travel, modest political messages, and wonderful characters make it a perfect book for older kids, teens, and adults alike.