Monday, December 07, 2020


Marvelous Middle Grade Monday
and #IMWAYR day 

Aslan, Austin. Trailblazer (TURBO Racers #1)
December 31 2018 by HarperCollins
Library copy

Mace Blazer lives in a slightly futuristic, alternative US (President Kennedy survived being shot, and Martin Luther King, Jr. was at one point president) and is obsessed with Turbo Racing. This sometimes gets him in trouble, as he has run afoul of Carson Gerber, whose well-to-do father is an amateur racer. Mace's family struggles financially, so his standing in the Turbo Racer video game suffers when he doesn't have the funds to go to the arcade at the mall to play. When he does play, he is on top of the world rankings. When he wants to go to see an exhibit of a famous vehicle so he can do a school report on it, he is dismayed to find that it has already been removed from the museum and is waiting at the airport to continue its journey. Since his father works at the airport, Mace has some familiarity with the operations. When he finds the vehicle, he sits in it, and soon finds himself on an amazing journey. The vehicle recognizes him and encourages him to fly a dangerous course. He does well, but there are some police efforts to track down the perpetrator, but he is saved by the owner. Tempest is very wealthy and very devoted to Turbo Racing, and recruits Mace, as well as four other underage racers, for her elite team. Joining Mace are Aya, who is Japanese American, Dex, who hails from the Dominican Republic, and Norwegian Henryk. The group train and learn the rules of racing according to Tempest, which are sometimes at odds with even Mace's moral code. After one incident, Mace is let go, but later contacted by Ahmed, Tempest's trainer. With the help of Carson Gerber's father, Dex, and the local shop teacher, Mace competes in a Californian race that qualifies him for a big tournament near Cuba. With storms approaching and Tempest wishing him ill, will Mace be able to win the race and solidify him standing as a world competitor in Turbo Racing? 
Strengths: This starts out strong, with Mace making a series of poor decisions that seem reasonable at the time. He has a real passion for Turbo Racing and follows through; the fact that he knows about the mechanics of engines and he has done a lot of ground work making a bike from scratch ends up serving him well during Tempest's training. The ensemble is somewhat diverse, and the kids work together in interesting ways. I real enjoyed the moral uncertainty-- should Mace do what Tempest wants even when it doesn't seem right? There is not enough of that in books. The supportive, hard working parents are good to see as well. Of course, for the target demographic, it's the action and adventure of Turbo racing that is the real draw. Written in a fast-paced, engaging style, even the simple san serif font contributes to the readabilty of this fun novel.
Weaknesses: The sub plot with Carson and his bullying is a little cliche, but saved a bit when the father joins the team and the boys have an uneasy alliance.
What I really think: I have a new student who is very interested in skateboarding but not a big reader. He read Berend's Vertical  and came back for the sequel, and we had a long talk about reading and writing. I'm saving this one for him, because it has all of the elements I look for in a high interest book for readers who might not want to read. I really, really hope there is a third book!

Aslan, Austin. Escape Velocty (TURBO Racers #2)
February 25, 2020 by HarperCollins
Library copy

Mace Blazer has rocketed to fame after his amazing win in Trailblazer. He has a publicist, Melanie, and reputation to uphold. He sits out of a high profile race in London in order to do an interview for the Mazagatti line of cars that he is endorsing. He misses going head to head with up and comer Thad Hightower, an actor who has played Turbo racers in movies. During this, he is encouraged to take a car out on the streets of London even though he is underaged, and the trip ends with Mace seriously injured and in the hospital. Since he nearly killed a pedestrian, he is spooked and reluctant to drive again. At the same time, he is getting some attention from Turbo fan Olesya Vasko, the high powered princess of Kreznia, whose kingdom is having trouble with other inhabitants of the Black Coast. He tries to participate in a Great Lakes Charity run, but is too spooked. Soon, he is traveling to Chile where he, Aya and Dex meet Juan Pablo. Henryk has stayed with Tempest's team and is pretending to be the one who won the race near Cuba that Mace actually won. Both Dex and Aya go missing, and Mace tries to hunt them down. He gets caught in a chemical bath (used to prevent the racers from carrying contaminated algae into other bodies of water), and ends up stowing away in Hightower's racer. When the actor takes off for Antartica, Mace goes along, and finds out some incriminating facts about Hightower, Tempest, and some unproven Turbo Racer technology. Will he be able to shake his fear of racing and help out with some of the evil plots he has uncovered?
Strengths: There should be more sports related books that veer into spy territory! It's a great combination of different adrenaline rushes for students. Mace's reluctance to race even though he loves it is a good twist, and the flirtation with the princess adds a fun note. I think there should be a third book, because Tempest's fate is a bit unclear.
Weaknesses: I was never able to get students interested in Matthew Reilly's Crash Course (2005) series, which was similar but perhaps not as well written. Since the series was in prebind, which smells awful if unread, it's long gone from my library. 
What I really think: I'm glad I took the chance on this series, and think that the shiny hardcovers will appeal to readers who want an exciting story about racing. 

Ms. Yingling


  1. Exciting books that would engage reluctant boy readers?? I will check right away and see if our library has them or will get them.

  2. If a book will engage a reluctant reader, it is a good book, in my estimation. These wouldn't interest me, but I'm not who they were written for. Thanks for telling me about them.

  3. Thanks for the recommend on this title. I also am, working with a skate boarding and roller blading 13 year old who would be the perfect reader for this book. Thanks for featuring on the anniversary edition of MMGM.

  4. This sounds like a thrilling and perfect series for reluctant readers. I didn't know what turbo racing was -- a game or are there actual race cars -- and googled it. But the futuristic gaming aspect sounds exciting. Hope the kid you have this series set back for enjoys it! I admire your connection with students. Thanks for sharing!

  5. What a neat set of books! I completely agree with Rosi Hollinbeck's comment—it is wonderful to see books for reluctant readers, who often are reluctant simply because there aren't enough books written for them! Thanks for the great post!

  6. It's great when you're able to recommend a book to a reluctant reader and they enjoy it. I love how you were able to have a long conversation about books and writing with that student! (I hope he likes this one as much.)