Omega City (Omega City, book one)
By Diana Peterfreund
Expected publication April 28, 2015 by Balzer + Bray
Gillian's dad is a little bit out there - he believes in some conspiracy theories and occasionally, her family has had to go off the grid when he thinks that someone if after him or his research. Most of his research has focused on one man - Dr. Aloysius Underberg, a rocket scientist during the Cold War. Gillian shares some of her dad's beliefs, so when she finds a missing page from Dr. Underberg's diary, she's convinced that she can restore his reputation. The missing page sends her and her friends on a crazy treasure hunt - and they're not the only ones looking for Dr. Underberg's secrets. Has Gillian put her friends' lives at risk for nothing? Or will they uncover the truth?
This is Peterfreund's first foray into middle-grade territory and, as I've enjoyed her YA offerings and am always looking for new middle-grade reads, I wanted to give it a shot. I was pleased to see it available for download, so I finished it up just prior to publication.
I must admit I'm a bit disappointed in this book. I had pretty high expectations - as I said, I've quite enjoyed her YA titles, so I had reason to believe this book would be excellent as well. Unfortunately, this book is a bit more middle of the road for me. What I think this book excels at, particularly for its target audience, is the action and tension. The characters find themselves in perilous situation after perilous situation pretty much constantly throughout the book, leaving readers wondering how they'll possibly escape each new dangerous encounter. The tension is high as they are pursued through a dark and dangerous underground city. Will they find the proof they need to restore Gillian's dad's reputation? Or will they end up trapped in Omega City forever? And just who is pursuing them, and why? It is definitely action-packed and edge-of-your-seat stuff.
But it also gets a bit tedious. I mean, it is a middle-grade novel, so in all likelihood, they're going to be just fine. So, for me, the tension was not quite so high. Additionally, what I really missed here was characterization. Gillian is the narrator and, while she certainly has a personality, I felt like it could have been developed a bit more. The same can be said of the secondary characters - I mean, I didn't really buy that Nate wouldn't make them abandon their mission at the first sign of danger, so a clearer explanation of his motivations would have been helpful. That being said, I think the conspiracy theory stuff is pretty cool, though I do wonder how much of that will be lost on the target audience (I don't remember being aware of any conspiracy theories when I was 10-14 and some of the ones incorporated here are a bit more obscure). I liked the humor and pop culture stuff that was woven in, and the science was all pretty interesting.
This is listed as the first in a series, and I'm interested in checking out the next book. I imagine we'll find out more about the shadowy group trying to destroy evidence of Underberg's inventions. Actually, I'm just now wondering if this book won't make some kids paranoid, with its government cover-ups and whatnot. This is a decent enough adventure story that I imagine it could be pretty popular, though I hoped for a little more. I'll still be recommending it, particularly over the summer.
Thanks to the publisher for a digital advance reader's copy, provided via Edelweiss.