Friday, February 07, 2020

Guy Friday- Accidental Trouble Magnet and Trigger Mechanism

Mian, Zanib and Mafaridik, Nasaya. Planet Omar: Accidental Trouble Magnet
February 4th 2020 by G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young
ARC provided by Follett First Look

Omar lives with his mother, a research scientist, his father, his baby brother Esa and teen sister Maryam in England. The family has just moved, and Omar is upset that he has to start a new school with children he doesn't know. He is afraid his teacher might be an alien, but Ms. Hutchinson ends up being nice, and he does meet Charlie, who welcomes him to the school. He also runs in to Daniel, who is mean to everyone but tells Omar that he should go back to his country because he is Muslim. There is also a problem with an elderly lady next door, who is overheard talking about "the Muslims" and their cooking smells, noise, etc. This makes Omar feel uncomfortable, but he also knows that it is wrong, and tries to get other students to understand that he is just like them. The neighbor comes around when she needs help from the family, and Omar eventually decides that his new home isn't so bad.
Strengths: This is a notebook novel with a great mix of pictures and text-- it's similar to another British series, Tom Gates by Liz Pichon, but involves younger characters. I love the details about Omar's family, and these details will be helpful to readers who are not familiar with Pakistani Muslim culture.
Weaknesses: The problematic dealings with the neighbor and bully at school are good for students to read about, but solved too easily for middle school readers, who know that there is a lot more going on with the issue of Muslim characters experiencing prejudice.
What I really think: This is a must have for elementary libraries, but is a bit too young for middle school, with Omar's imagining that his teacher might be an alien and the way he interacts with his family and fellow students. I'd love to see a similar story for slightly older readers!

McEwen, Scott and Williams, Hof. The Trigger Mechanism (Camp Valor #2)
February 11th 2020 by St. Martin's Griffin
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Wyatt survived Camp Valor, although he lost his friend Dolly to the evil Hallsie. He's determined to take him down, but other missions get in the way. A young gamer, Jalen, gets drawn into a shoot-em-up game that ends up actually killing people, since hackers got into both his virtual reality system and the system of a self driving car. Jalen has to go into hiding, and feels horrible about what happened, so is glad to go to Camp Valor. The hacking threat seems to be an entity called Encyte, and there are several different theories about who this might be, including a gamer who goes by the name Hi Kyto. To make matters even more complicated, a former Valor alum, Darsie, who knew Wyatt's father Eldon wants Wyatt to drop out of Valor and work for him to find Hallsie. He also is interested in the Encyte threat, and has resources that might help with that. In the meantime, the secretary of defense, Elain Becker, finds out about Camp Valor and is determined to shut it down. Interestingly, Hi Kyto is his protege. Eventually, the people at the camp have a woman come to them and say she has been approached to shoot a private school where the children of a gun rights advocate attend, and all of the threads in the Encyte mystery get tangled up in the attempt to stage this convincingly and finally put this threat out of commission.
Strengths: There are relatively few books that involve video gaming, and this uses it to wickedly good effect. Camp Valor, where juvenile delinquents gets a second chance by working for the government, is such an appealing idea to the middle grade mind. This has lots of technology details, travel, things blowing up-- it's not slow at all. Look at that cover-- it sells itself to Klavan's The Last Thing I Remember, Gilman's The Devil's Breath and Kincaid's Insignia.
Weaknesses: This is rather technical, has some fairly gruesome violence, and was a bit difficult to follow because there were so many intriguing things going on.
What I really think: I wish there weren't the f-bomb near the end of the book, and this is still a bit more violent than I like, but it's a really good spy mystery, especially with the connection to gaming and the Internet of Things. Reminded me a bit of Falkner's Brain Jack. The first book has been really popular with my 8th graders, who will be waiting breathlessly for this volume to arrive. This would be a fantastic series for high school readers who loved Stormbreaker.

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