Author: Gordan Korman
Genre: Middle Grade, Adventure, Mystery
POV: first person, switching between 5 characters
Average Rating: 4.28 stars (subject to change)
My Rating: 5 stars
Barnes & Noble | Chapters/Indigo
(I received an ARC of this book through my job)
In the beginning, our main character, Eli, and his best friend Randy, decide to bike just outside the city's limits. But as soon as they cross the town border, Eli collapses with a sudden headache and nausea. When he wakes up, he finds his friend being sent away to live with his grandparents. The only thing he leaves behind is a strange note telling Eli that something's up in their perfect town, and that Randy is something Eli is not; linked to the world's most notorious criminals, perhaps?
What I loved about this setting is how quaint it was; every knows everyone, everyone knows how to get around, and who has what flowers on their front porch. But then there's Plastic Works, where each kid can only imagine what it might look like on the inside because they're not allowed in. It's all fenced up and the "Purple People Eaters" are constantly guarding it. And like I mentioned, the only people the kids don't know by name are the "Purple People Eaters." Again, a little creepy.
This setting sets the perfect tone for the novel. It tips the scale on which "side" the reader should be on: kids vs. adults.
I loved the characters and each of their distinct personalities. By the middle of the book, I rarely had to look at the chapter headings to know who's point of view we'd switched to. Also, because of the multiple POVs, we didn't just see Eli's, but two other boys and two girl's POVs; which helps make it gender-neutral and relatable.
I've always mentioned that I love book with lots of character dynamic, and if you do too, I highly suggest you read this. They all had their own funny/sassy moments that added comic relief to the intensity of the plot line. "Intense enough to stay action-y and keep you reading, but fun enough that it won't freak out a younger audience", a direct quote from the notes I made while reading; good job, past Emily.
In the end, there's the question of Nature vs. Nurture, and in that case, I'd recommend it to the older middle grade audience (11 or so), because it can be a more difficult concept to grasp. But, being older, I found this part super interesting and a great way to tie the real-world into this fictional town.
Let me know if you plan on picking this one up, and if you already have, what did you think?