Bobby Socks and Hotrods: Bernal C. Payne Jr, Trapped in Time (Archway Paperbacks, Simon & Schuster: New York, 1986)
[a reprint of It's About Time, 1984]
A back to the future book in which two very unconvincing teens wish themselves back to 1955 to see their "perfectly matched parents" meet and fall in love, only to discover their parents hated each other, and in addition to interfere in their parent's first meeting.
The book is sickly and sentimental and mostly doesn't work. And it doesn't work because Payne never really thinks about what it would be like to be a kid thrown back into the past. Although lots of differences are noticed, many that ought to be slide by, and there is no actual thought involved, so that the protagonists note how "cheap" clothes and food are, but although in their teens never consider that wages would be much lower.
The scene that is most revealing of the absence of sf-nal sensibility is when the Priest is testing the children. He asks them a very long sequence of prepared questions about the future and they rattle off the answers.
There are two problems:
1. They have told him far too much if they don't want to change the world in anyway. The man could lay bets on every Presidential election and feed every poor person in the parish on the results.
2. They tell him about "men walking on the moon, satellites circling the earth, nuclear powered ships, heart and kidney transplants, computers the size of radios,and calculators the size of a watch." What puzzled me about this list was what the Priest could have asked--he doesn't (as far as I can tell) allow the kids to free associate. The question that occurs is "what new inventions are there" but if he asked that, are these the things a 15 yr old would come up with? Back to the Future did this much better.
Which is another point. Back to the Future was released in 1985, this book in 1984. Does anyone know if there is a connection? They are awfully similar.
In the end the book just never really gets into the head of a time traveller. For all the description of difference and the kids' fear that they will disappear, there is no real sense of disorientation. I think this is partially because the story is told in the first person retrospective, so that the entire works as a travelogue through the past. It becomes a picture show rather than an awfully scary adventure.