Time Riders

Common Sense Media says

Time-traveling thriller puts three teens in NYC on 9/11.





What parents need to know

Educational value

Besides getting kids interested in the whole area of time travel, both the physics and the philosophy, this book will stir up interest in Adolf Hitler and World War II as well as the events of 9/11 in New York City.

Positive messages

Messing around with time can cause a tidal wave of changes that might create a world that is worse than the real thing. Hard choices often have to be made for the good of the whole, and working together offers the best chance of success against dangerous odds. 

Positive role models

The time rider kids are brave, responsible, and look out for each other. The robot develops friendly feelings, and even the evil physicist has good motivations in the beginning. 


From start to finish, this story is full of fantasy violence, some of it pretty gory. To begin with, the time rider kids are snatched from the brink of disastrous death: one from the sinking Titanic, another from an exploding plane, and the other from fire. Their fear of dying, especially the drowning, is graphically described, which makes it easy to understand why they would take on the time riding alternative. Later, war, advanced weaponry, confrontations with a SWAT team, an attack on Hitler, an assault on Washington, D.C., and raids on POW camps create all sorts of carnage and mayhem. At one point, cannibalistic mutants stalk the time riders and actually capture, and presumably devour, the youngest member. At another point, the hero has to sever the head of the human-like robot in order to complete his mission. 

Not applicable

As would be natural in their shocking, violent world, the heroes use some soft swearing, words like "hell," "damn," "Jazzus and Holy Mary," "turds," "puke," and so on. 


Not really an issue, though the time riders do eat at a McDonald's and note signs advertising Burger King, Nike, and Adidas.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this fast-paced adventure takes the idea of time traveling to a different level, and is a hard book to put down. The first of four books (with more to follow), it centers on three time-riding agents whose mission is to save the world from the interference of other time-traveling manipulators. It does contain quite a bit of violence, and the three protagonists are endangered by evil characters and cannibalistic mutants. But overall, good triumphs over evil and the three protagonists grapple with some important issues and hard choices. The Time Rider website also offers interactive missions to play.

Parents say

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Kids say

What's the story?

Three teens are plucked from the edge of death and given the choice to become time riders, whose mission is to move back and forth in time, protecting the world from potential alterations by other time travelers. Liam was about to go down with the Titanic in 1912, Maddy was on an airplane that was about to be blown-up by a terrorist's bomb in 2010, and Sal was caught in a fire in Mumbai in 2026. Based on the premise that meddling with time can have disastrous results, their job is to keep a look out, find meddlers, and make sure that true history remains unchanged. Using a time bubble centered on the 9/11 attacks as their headquarters, they hide their identity as agents, and under the tutelage of an older time rider and Bob the robot, they begin an adventure that includes war, Nazis, carnage of all sorts, missed rendezvous, a doomsday machine, cannibalistic mutants, and some very hard choices.

Is it any good?


Many sci-fi time-traveling books deal with the idea that messing with time is a bad idea that usually makes things worse than they are. This book takes that one step further by creating an agency of time riders to make sure that does not happen. The idea is creative, the writing engaging, the adventures fast-paced, and the main characters seem like people you might like to know. On the other hand, some characters, like Kramer and his neo-Nazis, seem like comic book heroes, and there is more violence than necessary.

In spite of all the high-tech talk about why things work and why they should be monitored, the story seems grounded in reality, and a complicated idea comes across clearly. Subheadings that give the time and place help the reader track the story threads, and intense moments sprinkled with philosophy and a bit of humor make this a very enjoyable and readable book. Most readers, especially sci-fi enthusiasts, will look forward to the other books in this series: Time Riders: Day of the Predators, Time Riders: The Doomsday Code, and Time Riders: The Eternal War. They may also enjoy the interactive missions offered on the Time Rider website.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the mission of the time riders. Do you think it would be better to leave history alone, or would you try to change it to avoid disaster? If you were part of an agency that monitored time travel and history, which role would you take? Would you be an observer, analyst or operative? Do you think there is a way to change history without causing a tidal wave of destruction?

  • The time riders have to live in New York City in a time bubble that spans 48 hours from Sept. 10 through 11, 2001. What is the purpose of the time bubble, and why are they situated then and there? How does it help them discover their mission? How does Maddy react to using 9/11 as the time bubble? Do you think it is a good choice? How do you think other readers might feel about it?

Book details

Author:Alex Scarrow
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Walker and Co.
Publication date:August 31, 2010
Number of pages:416

This review of Time Riders was written by

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Teen, 14 years old Written byBirdBoyBen September 25, 2012

Well worth a read

Surprisingly intense and scary, the first installment of the Time Riders series was a pleasant surprise. The beginning was shocking and immediately got me interested in the book, and there were just enough gaps between action to build up a fair bit of tension. The characters appear weak at first but characterization is strong and builds them up until you can see right inside their thoughts, feel their fear and excitement. There was a fair amount of gore including mangled bodies and frightening mutant humans, though it is not graphically described. There are also some very good lessons that can be learnt from the book about teamwork, friendship and the idea of a 'perfect world'. My only criticism is that I felt there could have been a bit more description in places, particularly of the rescuing at the beginning and New York itself, but other than that this book is brilliant.
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence
Teen, 13 years old Written byTipp March 16, 2012

Pretty good book.

Good book, quite simple but still the next book you should read.
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models
Too much consumerism
Kid, 12 years old April 26, 2014

Awsome Book!

This is an excellent book with a great story and good characters. It is very very hard to put it down because you feel like being a part of the time traveling adventure! Some violent themes though. Otherwise an awesome book!
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence


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