Finn and the Time-Traveling Pajamas by Michael Buckley
Genre: Time Travel
Age category: Middle Grade
Release Date: March 30, 2021
Finn and the Time-Traveling Pajamas is the second book in the Finniverse middle grade series. The first book is entitled Finn and the Intergalactic Lunchbox. So in case the covers don’t give it away already, it’s safe to say Finn Foley has had some strange adventures in his young life so far.
The second book references events from the first but doesn’t rely on them so heavily that a reader couldn’t pick the story up here. Having returned from traveling across the universe with his friends Lincoln and Julep, Finn now finds himself face-to-face with a group of Time Rangers, who accuse him and his friends of a range of crimes and want to lock them up. Thankfully, the trio is saved by the future version of Finn himself, who has a favor to ask. Old Man Finn has been fighting a monster known as Paradox all across the space-time condominium. He believes there are three key battles which, had he been given just a bit more of an edge, could have gone differently and ultimately turned the tide of war in Old Man Finn’s favor.
If the setup sounds serious in comparison to the title, well, it actually is. Yes, it’s a little goofy that Finn’s time machine is in the form of a pair of pajamas, but other than that, the book got much darker than I expected. Rather than leaning towards younger middle grade, where the problems tend to be sillier with lighter consequences, Finn and the Time-Traveling Pajamas plants itself firmly in the center of the age range. The characters run into real life-or-death situations, both for themselves and those they care about. In fact, I wished the book leaned a bit more into the light and fun. The rules about time are a bit vague, and there’s a lot of scenes with the trio of friends getting emotionally pummeled by their situation. At times, there’s not even a clear path for them to fix things until a separate event throws them a lifeline. I’m all for characters getting in trouble. In fact, the more, the better. But watching them be lost and hopeless is less fun.
The story doesn’t focus solely on Finn and his friends. Finn’s sister gets a subplot with some heartfelt moments about “childish” interests conflicting with her desire to grow up. One of the adult characters also gets a POV in this book, though I confess their motivations seemed a little weak compared to others’. I wanted so much to get totally absorbed in this book, and there was plenty I enjoyed–particularly some of the surprising turns at the end. I just didn’t completely fall in love with it the way I had hoped. Clearer time-travel rules and stronger paths forward for the characters would have gone a long way. But I’m definitely open to giving more of Michael Buckley’s books a try.
One minor addendum: I noticed some of the events described in the back blurb don’t occur until pretty late in the story. It’s certainly not anything I would fault the author for, but it seemed worthy of note for those debating about picking up this series based on the blurb.
Rating: 3 out of 5
You can find Finn and the Time-Traveling Pajamas on Goodreads
You can also buy Finn and the Time-Traveling Pajamas on Amazon. (Affiliate link)