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This Again?


Readability Age Range



Year Published

Book Review

Noah has it pretty good in middle school: OK grades, good friends. He’s even running for class president. But he wants it all to be perfect. And only a time traveler can make that a reality.

Plot Summary

Middle school isn’t exactly bad for Noah Nicholson. I mean he has a couple of good pals, Samar and Darnell, whom he’s buddied around with since kindergarten. (Great guys!) On top of that, his grades are pretty decent. (All except for math!) And he’s even running for class president. (Want a campaign button?)

Oh, and his longtime crush, Lucy Martinez, even spoke to him the other day. (Woohoo!) And when Noah wasn’t geeking out, the two of them kinda, sorta hit it off with little shared jokes.

Despite all that, however, Noah isn’t exactly as excited as you think he’d be.

You see, Noah’s older brother, Paul, who’s now out of high school and heading to Harvard, always earned straight A’s in school. He was always super popular and always the captain of the basketball team. And the fact is, those things were always kind of expected of him since Noah and Paul’s parents are both brilliant.

Noah, however, is none of those things. He may dress like a well-pressed CPA—with a crisp white shirt and creased khakis—but he’s just a mostly-average shlub. He knows it. And frankly, nobody expects Noah to be the next Harvard-bound Nicholson.

That doesn’t mean that Noah isn’t trying to land in Harvard. He’s actually been burning the candle at both ends in an effort to live up to his brother … and still not even coming close.

Noah’s run for middle school president is bombing, for one thing. I mean, along with the lunch lady’s support (which doesn’t really count) he might get a total of three votes. His popularity among his fellow students is right up there with fungal infections. And if he doesn’t ace the math final, he’s going to be bounced out of the honors program. Then he can kiss his own dreams of Harvard goodbye. Arrgh!

What no one knows, however, is that Noah has a secret weapon. It’s so secret, even he doesn’t know about it. Any second now, someone is going to walk up to him and give him a list of things assured to win Noah popularity and the student election. In fact, this guy promises that if Noah does exactly what he says, everything he’s hoping for will turn out perfectly. Even Lucy.

That may seem ridiculous, especially since the first thing this guy wants is for Noah to show up late to school and get detention. But it’s kinda hard to argue, since the guy who’s making all these outlandish demands is none other than … Noah himself.

Yep, it’s Noah from the future—with the same crisp shirt and well-creased khakis.

Things are about to get weird!

Christian Beliefs


Other Belief Systems

Noah’s story doesn’t deal with belief, but it does touch on ethics. It turns out that Noah’s scientist parents created a time machine. However, they decide to dismantle the contraption (after they prove that it works) out of an ethical concern that the power of stepping back in time would be misused by some and potentially irreparably alter reality in negative ways.

However, the other (future) Noah disregards that logic and does exactly what his parents feared by repeatedly jumping back in time. The (present) Noah we know ultimately recognizes the foolishness of this and follows through on his parent’s wise wishes to dismantle the machine.

Authority Roles

Noah has a sense that ever since his brother left for college, his parents have been overbearing. They preach caution when it comes to certain details of his life. Eventually, though, Mom and Dad help Noah see that their efforts and requests aren’t overly controlling, but instead protective measures designed for Noah’s benefit.

We come to see that Noah’s efforts to live up to Paul’s achievements were actually attempts to get his parents’ approval—something that he felt he lacked. But Mom and Dad pooh-pooh that assumption and make it clear that they love him every bit as much as Paul. They stress that Noah and Paul are two different people, with different skill sets. Noah has natural talents in music, his parents declare, and Paul was frustrated that he never possessed those talents. They openly express their love for both their sons. Noah’s math teacher is a good woman who patiently offers to help Noah, even though Noah’s priorities are obviously out of whack at times. She eventually helps him set up some extra tutoring.

Noah deals with two other teachers: a science teacher who becomes justifiably frustrated with him and his behavior, and a coach who’s patient but firm.

Later in the story, Paul returns home and openly shares some of his own struggles and weaknesses—things that Noah was unaware of. He also expresses his love for Noah.

Noah also realizes that his future self isn’t always telling the truth. And he recognizes that some of the less-than-wise choices the future Noah convinced him to make were hurtful to some. And he steps forward to apologize.

Future Noah is, of course, Noah. So the two think and generally act the same. And that sense of commonality has an impact on both of them as they note that life can be very lonely. Future Noah states: “But that loneliness goes away when you find someone who really gets you.” And in that moment, both Noahs realize that there are potential friends in their lives that “get” them better than they think.

Profanity & Violence

No nasty language or alcohol.

Future Noah comes up with a theory of what might happen if he’s unable to go back to his proper timeline: “My body will explode, creating a domino effect infinitely more powerful than an atomic bomb.” That never happens, however.

Future Noah convinces present Noah to bully a girl student. It’s not physical, but Noah makes a joke at her expense that’s very hurtful. (Noah pays a price for this mean action.)

Sexual Content

Noah is smitten with the pretty Lucy. And it’s obvious that the two of them have the same vibe and sense of humor.

Discussion Topics

Have you ever thought about how some people at school sometimes get attention for making poor choices? They may even be seen as cool or funny for those choices. But is it wise to hurt people’s feelings for attention? Why? Have you ever been teased or bullied by someone? What’s the best way to handle that?

Noah also learned a lesson about working toward his goals and not putting things off. How do you approach responsibilities such as homework and chores? Those jobs aren’t as fun, maybe, as playing a game or watching a show, but have you ever noticed the positive feeling you get when you finish an assignment? Why do you think that happens?

If you could go back in time, what would you change? Do you think there are ways you can change things for the better by making good choices now?

Additional Comments

This Again? adds a compelling little sci-fi twist to the typical middle school experience. It asks kid readers to consider questions about friendship; the value of popularity and hard work; the need to set goals; and making wise choices.

Positive parental and family influence is highlighted in the tale.

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Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not necessarily their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book’s review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

Review by Bob Hoose