In the same house on March 21, 1959, Mark Ryan finds a letter. Written by the mansion’s original owner in 1900, the letter describes a basement chamber, mysterious crystals, and a formula for time travel. Driven by curiosity, Mark tests the formula twice. On his second trip to 2017, he encounters a beautiful stranger. He meets the woman in the window.
Within hours, Mary Beth and Mark share their secret with her sister and his brother and begin a journey that takes them from the present day to the age of sock hops, drive-ins, and jukeboxes. In CLASS OF ’59, the fourth book in the American Journey series, four young adults find love, danger, and adventure as they navigate the corridors of time and experience Southern California in its storied prime.
*May Contain Spoilers*
John Heldt opens the door to a few new time travelers that stumble into and out of 1959, in his new American Journey book, Class of '59. A young man discovers the power to time travel in his Los Angeles home, a home that will someday belong to Geoffrey Bell, a common character (and time traveler) in the American Journey series. When he's caught by a present day woman, all bets are off as he tries to convince her what's he found.
Mark and Ben Ryan and Mary Beth and Piper McIntire are the four main characters in this novel. Mark is the oldest Ryan brother and is the first to discover the time travelling tunnel beneath his house and how it works with a corresponding crystal. Mark is the typical 1950's gentleman. He's intelligent, driven, loves his family, a little adventurous, and is definitely caring. Ben, however, does not portray himself as that 1950s gentleman. He is more self-centered, conceited, egotistical, and grumpy. His teenage personality gives the story more pep and a little more sarcasm. Though there's more to Ben then that; it just takes a while for his better personality traits to actually come out. He's more of a get-to-know character. Which, Piper McIntire signs up for.
Piper is the young McIntire sister who thinks Mary Beth and Mark are crazy when they introduce her to the time travelling tunnel. Piper is also a teenager and is prone to fits of grumpiness and uncertain emotions. Her sarcasm and banter are fun to read while her deeper, more personal thoughts are more telling of her character. She also pushes the story forward as it's Piper who decides she wants to make the most out of their experience. She decides she wants to live in the 1950s like a boarding school vacation for six weeks or so, graduate high school again, and get to have the 1950s high school experience complete with poodle skirts and tennis matches. Her sister, Mary Beth, agrees to it.
Mary Beth McIntire is probably the character easiest to make a connection with. When the story opens, Mary Beth, and readers, witness her fiance being shot in a convenience store robbery. Losing someone she loved paused Mary Beth's happiness. With this emotional connection right at the beginning, readers will enjoy Mary Beth's view of living for the moment and experiencing all there is in 1959. Mary Beth is a very caring and loyal woman who expresses her gratitude and joy within each good moment. She graduated from college and is going into medicine to be a trauma surgeon. She's a great character that loves exploring, experiencing, and a little bit of excitement. But she's also the one who puts everyone in danger.
The plot of Class of '59 does focus on these four young adults who travel between 1959 and 2017. However, Mary Beth, before leaving 2017, buys a book that held sports scores for past championships and whatnot (think Back to the Future), in order for them to make money in the past. Because of a receipt with an unbelievable date, a very bad criminal in 1959 discovers the existence of that book and plans on tracking down Mary Beth to find it. This plot addition gives the book a little action with its adventure.
Class of '59 is a great story, rich in detail and character connections, but I had trouble with the dialogue again. To me, there are a few too many "OK, I will"s and "Let me explain"s. These repetitive phrases seem to take away the individuality of each character, because they all use them. I also had an issue with Mark Ryan meeting Mary Beth's father. In the first half of the book, Mary Beth takes Mark to lunch with her parents in 2017. Toward the end of the book, Mark is again introduced to Mary Beth's parents with, I believe, only a few weeks apart. If I were one of her parents, I would remember having lunch with a Californian gentleman for longer than two weeks after I had that meal. That makes me wonder what Mary Beth would have told her parents if they would have realized it was the same man. Regardless, this installment of the American Journey series does not disappoint.
Rating: 3.5/5 Cups