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I Belong

Review: The Photo Traveler by Arthur J. Gonzalez

Title: The Photo Traveler

Author: Arthur J. Gonzalez

Genre: YA Science Fiction

Series: N/A

Publication Date: February 20, 2013

Format: Paperback, 352 Pages

ISBN-10: 0988891611 (Arthur J. Gonzalez)

ISBN-13: 978-0988891616 (Arthur J. Gonzalez)

Reviewed by: Kiwi


Seventeen-year-old Gavin Hillstone is resigned to being miserable for the rest of his life.  Left alone in the world after his parents died in a fire when he was four, he was placed in foster care, which for him meant ending up in an abusive home with an alcoholic adoptive father.

Gavin’s only escape is in taking and creating images. His camera is his refuge from the unending torture and isolation of daily life in his “family.”

Until he learns by accident that he isn’t alone in the world after all. His mother’s parents are still alive and living in Washington DC.

When he takes the plunge and travels 3,000 miles to find his grandparents, he learns that they—and he—are part of something much bigger, and more dangerous, than he could ever have imagined. Something that has always put his family at risk and that will now threaten his own life, while forever changing it.

He learns that he is one of the last descendants of a small group of Photo Travelers—people who can travel through time and space through images.  But his initial excitement turns to fear, when he soon discovers that he and his grandparents are being pursued by the fierce remnants of a radical European Photo Traveler cult, the Peace Hunters.  What Gavin has, they want!

His adventure will take him to past eras, like The Great Depression and the Salem Witch Trials.  Gavin will have to discover who he really is and must make choices that spell the difference between life and death for himself, for the relatives he now knows and loves, and for the girl he will come to love.

For Gavin Hillstone, life will never be the same.

Quick & Dirty: “If you had one shot, or one opportunity, to seize everything you ever wanted in one moment, would you capture it or just let it slip?” -Eminem

Opening SentenceWhat do you do when a sudden gust of wind forces your boat totally off course and into the unknown?

Excerpt: Yes

The Review:

As far as the main character in this title, Gavin Hillstone is concerned, life pretty much sucks. He was put in the foster care system at a young age after the death of his parents. His adoptive father became an abusive drunk after the death of his wife — which he blames on Gavin, by the way. His adoptive sister is rather mean and his poor step-mom…  The seemingly singular bright light on an otherwise gloomy existence his love for photography, and how much of an escape and pleasure it is for him. One evening during a particularly bad fight with his father, Gavin discovers that he has real grandparents living across the country; he does not hesitate to buy a bus ticket out of there.

When he makes it to DC and finds his grandparents, they have yet another surprise for him. Gavin, and those of his family who came before him, are Photo Travelers. Members of only a few families, who can, with a small chant, travel back in time to any moment that has been drawn or photographed. And guess what?!? His parents might even be alive. Accompanying all these revelations is a gamut of emotions for Gavin to endure, and us along with him. All the anger and betrayal, the happiness and even wonder, the excitement of the knowledge of his power to travel into those same photos he once only loved to take. And the ability to finally meet his parents… utter heart melt.

But as it must, life goes on. Gavin enrolls in school, makes a new friend or two, life is good for one minute in time. He, as with any average teenaged male, even meets a girl. Though the circumstances surrounding that love affair are anything but average.  Just when life seems pleasant, the reality of the inherent dangers of photo travelling, and what it means to be the last of his line keep smacking him in the face. Just as he’s beginning to wrap his head around the all too real consequences of all of his actions, the people after him are using them to their advantage. Even Yogi, the “I’m gonna be your bestest friend ever” turned “I’m a criminal mastermind, I killed your family.” By the by, totally stellar idea on how to get rid of that issue, although *whoa!* on what he finds out afterwards. And the members of that group, The Peace Hunters, well they be just plain scary crazy.

And about that ending.  This book’s end is heart stopping for Gavin and those closest to him, as well as for those of us who are reading about them. If any of you have read my previous reviews, you know that I hate hanging off those cliffs that appear on the last pages of any book. The anticipation, the long days waiting, the re-reading the book over and over as not to forget one single paragraph. I’m kidding. Maybe. So, next book please and thank you.

As I was perusing the other reviews for this book, I came across one that states how realistic sounding Gavin really is. It’s true. I don’t traditionally read a ton of YA, but it did strike me that Gavin actually feels 17. Sometimes, as adults we forget exactly what 17 felt like, or we put in ideas and sayings that were current for us back then. This is one YA book that I will be recommending to my teenager. It is nice to find books in this genre that aren’t all love-sick and whiny. And bonus, the lead in this series is male, with flaws and a life that doesn’t magically all go his way. Who knows about pain and sorrow, learns about happiness and joy. And even what happens when you give that same happiness and joy to someone else without first taking the necessary precautions …*ahem*

When all is said and done, I have to say I quite liked it. This is this author’s debut and I for one would like to see more from him.

Notable Scene:

I had such a hard time choosing the notable scene for this review. I kept waffling between the love, loss, pain, heartache, action and drama. Eventually, I just closed my eyes, flipped through the book and put my finger on a page. Dramatic action it is.


Bud shouts and I hear a loud thud. I finally jump to my feet. He’s on the ground in the middle of the mob. I can’t see if he’s moving.

“Leave him alone!” I yell, but I’m helpless. I’m too far away, and they’re closing in on him like greedy vultures.

Magistrate Howland grabs Bud’s rifle and aims it at me. “To your knees, demon!” he shouts.

My hearts stops.

“We are not demons! Please! Spare us!” I beg, but something slams into the back of my head. Hard. And everything goes black.


When I come to, I’m enveloped in a cloud of smoke that’s growing thicker by the second. The back of my head is throbbing and as I start to choke, I realize that Bud and I are slumped on the platform—tied together back to back with the same rope that would have snapped my neck.

Below us the crowd is still jeering and chanting, “Burn! Burn, demons! Burn!”

They’re burning us alive.

FTC Advisory: Arthur J. Gonzalez provided me with a copy of The Photo Traveler. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.

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