Time Bomb

Time Bomb

by Joelle Charbonneau


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Seven students trapped in their school after a bomb goes off must fight to survive while also discovering who among them is the bomber in this “keenly crafted thriller” (Kirkus Reviews) from the author of the New York Times best-selling Testing Trilogy. Perfect for fans of This Is Where It Ends.

A congressman’s daughter sick of her cookie-cutter image. A star quarterback with something to hide. A guy who’s tired of the star quarterback ignoring his calls. A clarinet player who’s done trying to fit in—or trying at all. An orphaned rebel who wants to teach someone a lesson. A guy who wants people to see him, not his religion.

Diana, Frankie, Tad, Cas, Z, and Rashid couldn’t be more different, but today, they’ve all found a reason to come to school a week before the semester starts. Before the morning’s over, they’ll all be trapped in a building that’s been rocked by a bombing. When they hear on the radio that someone inside is the bomber, and planning to set off more explosions, they’ll also be looking to one another for answers. 

Told from multiple perspectives, Time Bomb is an emotional thriller that will keep readers guessing about who the bomber could be—and what motivated such drastic action.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780544416703
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date: 03/13/2018
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 30,306
Product dimensions: 5.60(w) x 8.50(h) x 1.40(d)
Age Range: 12 - 17 Years

About the Author

Joelle Charbonneau began telling stories as an opera singer, but these days she finds her voice through writing. She lives near Chicago with her husband and son, and when she isn’t writing, she works as an acting and vocal coach.
Twitter: @jcharbonneau
Instagram: @joellejcharbonneau

Read an Excerpt

1:51 P.M.

“DON’T FIGHT,” CAS SAID from the doorway that Frankie and Z had just disappeared through. Tears glistened in her eyes. “Can we turn the radio back on? Maybe they’ll tell us help is finally coming.”
     Rashid clicked on the radio before heading over to help Tad. There was the buzz of static, then the announcer telling everyone that the firefighters were making progress. The fire was contained to the west side, and they hoped to have it out soon.
     “With one person of interest being questioned, authorities are now working to find another individual they have confirmed is involved in this terrible bombing. A source confirms that the individual is one of the students trapped on the second floor of the school. With four bombs having already gone off, there appears to be one explosive device still inside the school that could detonate at any time.”
     Another bomb was ready to go off, and the bomber was one of them.

Earlier That Day . . .
8:35 A.M.

— Chapter 1 —

ALL YOU HAD TO DO was smile and wear the right clothes, and everyone would think you were special. If you appeared successful, people would automatically assume you were successful. Her parents believed that. Her father had built a career on it. They wanted her to believe it.
     Diana hated that she did.
     “Perception is everything, Diana,” her stepmother said so often that Diana wanted to scream. But screaming wasn’t presentable. And, boy, did it make the wrong impression. This made screaming at the top of her lungs very tempting.
     “Always take care to make the correct choice, Diana,” her stepmother said over and over again. “Everything you do is important and reflects on your father and the positions he takes. And think about what your father’s opponents would claim if you don’t do well in school or become a leader in the activities you’re in. They’ll wonder how serious your father is about education if his own daughter doesn’t do well in school. The other side is always looking for a reason to point fingers and show that your father isn’t worthy of his position. That we aren’t worthy. So you can’t allow your grades or your attention to detail to slide, or you’ll hurt your father and, worse, you’ll hurt the work he’s trying to do.”
     Diana looked down at the clothes she’d chosen for the day. After sixteen years, she knew exactly what details would be noticed and what people would think when they saw her.
     Stylish white jeans. A tasteful pink top. But nothing too expensive, because that made people jealous. Nothing too tight, because that gave people the wrong idea. And no wrinkles. Wrinkles made people think you were lazy. No one trusts a person who is lazy. To get what you wanted in life, you must inspire trust—even if you intended to break it.
     Her father inspired trust with his perfectly tailored suits that were made less stuffy because he never wore a tie and always left the collar open.
     Folksy. Friendly. Everyone’s idea of the perfect dad and former army-communications specialist who always puts his family and country first. At least that’s what people must have thought, because he got elected. He was working hard to make sure he got to keep his job for another term, and it was their family’s job—Diana’s job—to make sure she didn’t do anything wrong that could make voters question whether they wanted him back in office.
     No pressure there.
     “Katherine?” she yelled, knowing how much her stepmother hated raised voices. No response. She must have already gone downstairs. Dad would be in meetings already. Diana bit her lip as she reached for the gold studs Katherine gave her for her sixteenth birthday, then added the gold-cross necklace that had technically been from her father. She’d pretended not to notice when one of his aides handed him the box that he’d clearly been unaware of up until that moment.
     “Little touches make all the difference,” Katherine insisted. “People notice the details.”
     Yes, they did, Diana thought as she reached into her jewelry box and pulled out the ratty friendship bracelet she’d made for herself years ago, wishing she’d had someone to give it to and to get one in return from. No one ever assumed the popular girl needed to be given a gift. No one thought about whether the popular girl was lonely when she went home. Everyone assumed the popular girl had a million friends and a family who supported her.
     Diana walked to her mirror and checked her makeup. Just enough to make her blue eyes look bigger. Nothing more, or people might question whether she was a good girl. And she was supposed to be a good girl. She ticked off her stepmother’s checklist one by one.
     Good shoes.
     A nice home.
     Top grades.
     Smart, respectable family tree.
     Perfect manners.
     All signs of a strong, well-brought-up girl. A girl everyone claimed to know from school. One parents and teachers pointed to as an example to others. One who had been taught to calculate her appearance and demeanor down to the plain red color of her cell-phone case. One who was determined to use it all to show everyone that it was foolish to trust what someone wanted you to see.
     And if she didn’t want to ruin her perfect image, Diana would have to get moving. Tardiness was not acceptable for a girl who was supposed to be without flaws. Tardiness implied a lack of respect for other people’s time.
     Glancing at her watch, she shook her head and hurried downstairs to find her stepmother so she could get a ride to school for the yearbook meeting.
     “Katherine?” she called.
     No answer. Huh. Well, Katherine was probably in the backyard making sure the staff had polished the patio furniture to a shine so that guests could be invited back to the house after the event tonight.
     “Your mother went out.”
     “What?” She turned and spotted her father standing next to the porch swing with his cell phone pressed to his ear. Since there was no point in correcting him about Katherine’s relationship to her, she simply asked, “Where?”
     He put up a hand to quiet her. “Yes, I’m here, and yes, I understand there’s been some pushback, but I can’t step back from the bill, or I’ll get hammered. The press will smell blood and it’ll be over, and we all know I’m right on this. I just need one thing to tip in my favor. You have to trust me on this.”
     Diana started to speak again, but before she could get a word out, her father turned his back and nodded. She would have to get in line for his attention.
     “Yes. I’ll make that distinction tonight, and don’t worry. The event will be the perfect place to highlight the positive points in the bill and to take charge of the conversation. If you have other things you want to talk about, I’ll be at the office in a half-hour. Good speaking with you, too, Tim. I appreciate your dedication. We’re going to turn things around.” Finally he hung up and turned toward her.
     He was wearing perfectly pressed khakis and a red polo shirt under a deep blue sports coat—relaxed authority was what her stepmother called the look. But despite the clothes, Diana didn’t think her father appeared relaxed.
     “That was Tim?”
     Her father nodded. “He’s worried about the negative press my Safety Through Education bill is getting.”
     Tim hadn’t been on her father’s staff as long as the others, but he was smart and perceptive, which is why her father’s chief of staff hired him right out of graduate school. And even though he was younger than the rest of the staff, Diana knew Tim was right to be worried about her father’s bill. The press was calling it an invasion of privacy. The law would require that students and teachers inform the administration if they thought someone in the school might be interested in doing harm to students, teachers, or school property. Any students reported would then have to hand over their passwords to social media and email accounts or face suspension and a potential investigation by federal authorities. Those who didn’t report suspicions before a harmful event could be charged with aiding and abetting.
     Her father believed the law would turn everything in the country around and would finally do what no other laws had been able to do—make things safer. Any students interested in causing trouble would think twice about it if they knew their friends and teachers were watching them and ready to act on any suspicious activity. And by catching and circumventing threatening behavior early, there was a good chance of diverting those students toward a more positive path. Her father was certain that taking action in the schools and the education system was the best way of changing the escalating pattern of violence in the country.
     “Was there another bad story in the press?” Diana asked. Not everyone agreed with her father’s thoughts on how to keep the country safe. Since the unveiling of the bill, there had been phone calls and mail and huge editorials about invasion of privacy and people’s differing definitions of what a “threat” to society actually was. Diana had even gotten hate mail for her father’s idea. When she had tried to talk to her father about it, he had just told her to give the mail to Tim and ignore it. That everything would work out. But when Tim had sat with her and listened to her talk about the threats she’d gotten and how people made a point of telling her they were going to vote her father out of office, Tim had admitted the backlash was concerning. If the tide of bad press and angry editorials about the potential law continued, they both agreed that it would be sunk before it ever had a chance to be tested. And her father’s career—one she had been told was necessary to make the world better—would be sunk along with it.
     Was it any wonder Tim wanted to pull out all the stops to make sure her father’s event tonight got the press’s attention, or that she was willing to do whatever it took to help? It was nice to have someone finally realize that she was capable of helping, and to finally listen to her when she had an idea. And Tim had said he was glad he could run ideas by someone without having to worry about her telling the senator that his ideas were too radical or that he wasn’t up to the job.
     Her father shrugged and gave her his own practiced smile. “Some of my co-sponsors are wondering if we should shelve the idea for more study, but Tim has some polling that says retreating might do more harm than good. I’m not worried. Tim and the others have a plan to make this all come together.”
     “If you need me—”
     Her father held up his hand as the phone rang. The phone was always ringing. “I’ll catch this on my way to the office.” He looked at Diana and gave her a tense smile. “Your mother left a note for you on the counter. You can help by making sure you’re ready when she comes to pick you up. I need everything to be perfect if we’re going to turn this around.” Then, before she could say anything, her father put the phone to his ear and said, “Larry, I’m glad you called . . .” as he disappeared into the house.
     Diana hurried after him, but he didn’t bother to look back. A minute later, Diana heard the front door slam behind him as he left before she could remind him that she needed a ride. And when she read her stepmother’s note, she knew she wasn’t going to get one from her, either.

           Diana dear,
           I’ll be home to pick you up at four. Wear the blue satin dress hanging in your closet and leave your hair down. Please be on time. Tonight is very important to all of us.

     She stared at the letter.
     Be on time.
     Leave your hair down.
     Tonight is important.
     But, clearly, driving Diana to school today was not.
     She turned the bracelet on her arm again, looked at her stepmother’s words one more time, hearing each of them ringing in her head along with all the other things she’d said over the years.
    <“Keep your opinions to yourself, Diana.” Because they might differ from what she was supposed to think. And that wasn’t allowed.
     “Remember that we’re counting on you.”
     Yes. They were.
     Diana headed back upstairs to the antique toy chest in the corner of her room. Quickly, she dumped the decorative pillows and extra blanket stacked on top onto the floor, then lifted the lid. She pulled out two bags. In the side pocket of one of the bags, she found the list she’d made for herself a few weeks ago and put it in her pocket.
     A quick glance at the clock told her she’d better get going or she’d be late for the yearbook meeting. Yesterday she’d moved the meeting to two hours earlier than originally scheduled. She doubted anyone would be thrilled that she’d asked them to change their plans simply to make them wait.
     Diana turned, took one last look in the mirror and saw what her family wanted her to be. What she had tried so hard to pretend to be.
     Perfect. Someone everyone expected to do the right thing and no one would ever suspect of doing something wrong.
     Booting up her computer, she sent a quick message to Tim, telling him that she was going to school now. Then Diana carefully picked up her bags and headed downstairs and out the door. Her father thought the only contribution he needed from her was for her to nod and smile and look flawless—like their family was supposed to be. She was determined to prove him wrong.

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Time Bomb 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
CrossroadReviews More than 1 year ago
When I started this one and seen how many POVs there were I was so scared that I was going to be so confused. But I learned early on that that wasn’t going too be the case. This story about a school bombing stayed true to each character and ended not as I expected. It has some major twists and and a final outcome that blew me away (bad choice of words). I enjoyed how each character was facing their own trauma and hardship and that you got to spend a little time with each one. It game this story that edge that a lot of stories don’t have. I was really hoping that Cass was going to end up with a certain football player but that just was not the case. I think that the author did something that most do not. She stayed true to how each character was brought up. And as for Frankie he doesn't look back, because that is just not who he is. So my feelings of them two falling for each other were dashed and that made me sad. But it worked very well for this story. That in the eye of tragedy people want to forget. Each character in this one was amazing. We learned about what made them tick (another bad choice of words) and were given a little bit about each one before the explosions started. The cast of characters were so vast in this one. There was a girl who thought she needed to be perfect for her Senator Father, a boy that was gay and his mom couldn't come to terms with it, there was another girl that was so sad and was going to end her life (this one hit home hard), another one that was Muslim and was not exactly ashamed of his faith but he felt like he needed to fit in, Another one that had lost his mom to cancer (that one hit home hard as well), and one more that wasn't sure if he was gay or not. I don't think I am forgetting anyone. Overall this was one book that will make you open your eyes to the people around you. That just because someone is muslim or they wear a head scarf etc. that they are bad people. If your child comes out as bisexual, gay, or whatever, you should accept that as they are and love them no matter what. If you are feeling like the world is crashing down around you seek help. I know that might be hard to get out of. Trust me!! I KNOW!! But there is always someone you can at least talk to, to get what you're feeling off your chest. Go Into This One Knowing: School Bombing, LGBT, Attempted Suicide, Death of a Parent from Cancer
Readingjunky More than 1 year ago
Six high school students have a variety of reasons for being at the school before the official start of the school year. When the bombs start detonating, they are all in danger, but it is soon clear that one of them is responsible for the bombs and more could explode at any time. Diana is the daughter of a U.S. Senator. Frankie is a popular football player. Tad is a freshman football player with a crush on Frankie. Cas admits she came to school that day with one thing on her mind - to die. Z is the tattooed bad guy with a crappy home life. Rashid is the stereotype of every Muslim seen as a potential terrorist. As the building begins crumbling around them, they end up helping each other find safe places to wait for the first responders to rescue them. Unfortunately, it is clear as they look out the windows to the grounds around the school, there is no help coming. A brief radio announcement lets them know the bomber is still in the school and the danger of more blasts are keeping their rescuers from entering the school. Told in alternating voices TIME BOMB by Joelle Charbonneau will keep readers guessing who is responsible. Each character has reason to be a suspect. Who can they trust to make the right decisions? Can they find a way to get out of the school to safety before another bomb goes off? TIME BOMB is a different take on the school violence theme of many recent YA novels. Full of suspense and fast-paced action, this new release is sure to be a popular read for ages 13 and up.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ok twist
EclecticBooks More than 1 year ago
A week before school new school year is about to begin, students, staff, and faculty are in the school getting ready for the new year. A bomb explodes and many are trapped inside, including the bomber. Those inside are trying to find a way out. This is a very suspenseful story that will keep you guessing. I am giving this a solid 4-star review.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really did enjoy this book, even though it felt preachy at times. I'm a huge Joelle Charbonneau fan. The reason I couldn't give this a higher rating was because I frequently had trouble visualizing what was happening. You could argue that it's a flaw on my part, but it's not something I normally have trouble with, and not in her past books. Having to re-read paragraphs to picture things (and often giving up after a few tries) seriously hurts a thriller. I would recommend this book if you're a fan of the author, but it's not as good as NEED. PS: If you like fantasy, check out Dividing Eden. In my opinion it's currently her best book by far.
TheThoughtSpot More than 1 year ago
Thanks to NetGalley and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for the opportunity to read and review Time Bomb by Joelle Charbonneau. Six disgruntled, unhappy students are each planning something that will change their lives and help them to be free from their problems. Each of the teenagers are dealing with different types of problems, secrets, religion, being an orphan, bullying and pressure from peers and family, but they end up together inside the school after a bomb explodes. They help each other but with the air of distrust between them. Finally, they discover who’s responsible for the bombings and they struggle for their lives. Intense with an interesting array of characters and relevant subject matter-5 stars! * I received a complimentary copy of this book for voluntary review consideration.
GratefulGrandma More than 1 year ago
It is a week before school starts for the year. Freshman students are at the school to get identification cards. A few others are there for various reasons when the first bomb explodes. As the school starts to crumble survivors on the second and third floors are trapped and the school is on fire. Seven students manage to congregate in a classroom on the third floor awaiting rescue. We find the quarterback football star, Ms. Perfect, who is a Senator’s daughter, the tattooed bad boy who very seldom even comes to school, an overweight and bullied girl who is an outsider, another cool football player who has recently come out to his family as gay as well as being mixed race, and finallly a a Muslim boy who deals with the teasing and racial stereotypes from the students. As time progresses we meet each student and find out that they are all dealing with something. When it is made known that one of the students in the school is one of the bombers, it is hard to determine which one it is. They all have issues, they all seem to be on some kind of a mission, yet they all seem to want to get out of the school alive. The story takes place over a few hours with the point of view changing among the six characters by chapter. during a time a few students were in their school when bombs began to explode. It changes the point of view between six main characters that are each still alive and struggling with how to get out of the school. I read this book over a day as I wanted to find out which of these characters was involved in this sinister activity. With all the violence in schools today and people being urged to report behaviour that could become dangerous to others, this book shows us that is not always easy to do. A well written story that leaves you thinking. The publisher generously provided me with a copy of this book via Netgalley.
tpolen More than 1 year ago
More than anything, this book challenges the reader to avoid stereotypes and assumptions about the situations of others. It's timely, thought-provoking, and will stay with you long after finishing. At first glance, this group of high school teens appear to be a Breakfast Club assortment. Or are they? As the story progresses, it's revealed each is dealing with their own issues to include racism, homosexuality, religious discrimination, bullying, and suicide. The interactions between Rashid and Tad are especially compelling. With the exception of Frankie and Kaitlyn, the character development is incredible - the teens are real, relatable, and flawed. For me, Frankie comes across as a little too stereotypical, and very little information about Kaitlyn is given. All have motivations for planting the bombs, and determining the identity of the bomber may force the reader to face their own stereotypes and prejudices. You may surprise yourself. These teens experience a horrific situation, and I appreciated that the author didn't create a tidy ending solving all their problems. A quick, action-packed, and stimulating read, Time Bomb is so much more than teenagers fighting for their lives. This is easily a cross-over and something I'd highly recommend for book clubs. Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC.
sandrabrazier More than 1 year ago
Diana, a Congressman’s daughter, is trapped with five other high school students. They are trapped in their high school while bombs are being detonated. Z, a lost soul who often cuts class, Rashid, a boy who is inaccurately judged because he is Muslim, Cas, an overweight teen who has no friends, Tad, a gay boy of mixed race, and Frankie, the school’s most popular and most talented football star are all trapped by falling debris and fire. One of these six students set the bombs. Who could it be? This story is told by six narrators, the six high school students trapped in the school. This gives us six different viewpoints of what happens during the five-hour span of this story. Although we hear from each narrator who shares with the reader their inner-most thoughts, we still do not know who the bomber is. Each of them has a secret reason to be in that school days before school starts. This is an exciting read! I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for an unbiased review.