By M.M. Vaughan
Published 2013 by Margaret K. McElderry Books
Christopher Lane has not had an easy life - he is unpopular, his teachers consider him a criminal liar, and his mother can barely take care of herself, let alone him. Things change, however, when Chris is accepted to the prestigious Myers Holt Academy. Chris has no idea just how much he is about to discover.
I am trying really hard to read more middle grade - it's my area of collection, so I want to have a greater knowledge of what's available for readers. I admit, I often get distracted by all the pretty shiny YA books (if you read this blog, surely you know that), but I am trying, I promise! I requested an e-galley of this title as part of this effort. It looked like it had potential as a good science fiction sort of book for tween readers. Unfortunately, this book fell flat.
Readers are aware from the beginning who is the bad guy and who is the good guy, so the suspense suggested by the cover and blurb is definitely lacking. Additionally, it takes a long time for the two sides to meet, and the climax is short and quite shocking. I don't really have a problem with dark things in books for kids - I've been reading and viewing horror stories my whole life and there is a reason Goosebumps is so persistently popular. However, the violence that occurs at the end of this book is jarring and, for me, it doesn't really work with the story. It does, however, set up a sequel, so it's obviously serving some purpose here.
In addition to the lack of suspense, I found the characters to be drab and interchangeable. We spend over 300 pages with Chris and I still have a hard time caring about him or feeling like I know much about him. Nothing in this book feels particularly well-done or original. I found it supremely lackluster and disappointing.
Thanks to the publisher for a digital advance reader's copy, provided via Edelweiss.