Nick of Time; Heroes of the Line, Book 1 by J. A. Carlton, author of Wednesday’s Child, Broken, and Into the Fire, is the riveting tale of two young boys whose ordinary lives quickly become anything but. Ten-year-old Nick is a protective and loving older brother, given responsibility for taking care of his younger, “scary smart” five-year-old brother, Frankie; they have seemingly ordinary lives filled with the usual childhood problems: bullies, a widowed mother who is constantly working, and hand-me-down clothes.
When the janitor, Harry, gives Nick a mysterious watch, he discovers that he has the ability to freeze-control time, in marginal increments, and only when the purpose is right, the need is right, and the moment is right. Gone are the days when his perpetual tardiness leaves his younger brother as the target for bullies, and no more are the boys powerless over the malicious influences in their lives.
Frankie is in awe of his brother’s newfound talents, and believes that he is going to be a “superhero,” the preternaturally smart five year old suggests that he call himself “Nick of Time,” a play on words using his name and the fact that he saved Frankie in “the nick of time.” Frankie hopefully suggests that he could be Nick’s sidekick, “Second Hand,” since all of their clothing is second-hand and there is a second-hand on the clock. Frankie begins to develop some special powers of his own, gifted with the ability, albeit limited, to read minds. With the boys’ new powers comes great responsibility, and they must protect themselves from the schades, evil forces who do not want them to learn to increase their powers.
Superficially, Carlton provides readers with a compelling plot; beneath the surface, the thematic elements of good v. evil, destiny v. choice, overcoming adversity, courage, honor, family, love, and duty give the story deeper meaning. The two brothers’ love for each other is truly touching, and Carlton addresses far deeper themes and topics than other gifted children type stories, making for an intense and meaningful plot. Indeed, Carlton’s page-turning story leaves readers anxious for the next installment of the Heroes of the Line series.