Sarah Scheele's tale starts out in a normal enough world: Ryan and Essie meet at an observatory in Texas, where Ryan spends a lot of time because his dad is an astronomer and which Essie, who is home schooled, visits on a field trip with her parents. The two kids are complete opposites and really start off on the wrong foot. Studious, arrogant Ryan and overly outgoing Essie are probably the most realistic average modern-day middle-schoolers I’ve ever read. They certainly have their faults and are sometimes downright nasty to each other, but the way they interact and argue is rather entertaining. I cared about them and wanted to see them friends…if left unchecked, kids that age get so wrapped up in themselves they don’t realize the need to understand other people. And that’s what the relationship part of the story is largely about—kids learning how to respect each other. And the way Ryan and Essie learn is a way no child reading this will soon forget.
Ending up on a space shuttle through Essie’s thoughtlessness, and getting sucked into a wormhole, also via Essie’s thoughtlessness, the kids end up at a planet called Caricanus. There they are plunged into an adventure involving alien royalty, magical pillars, the fates of planets, and astonishing discoveries about themselves. I’m somewhat of a dunce when it comes to the names of places and “people” groups in science fiction, so I was a bit lost when there were so many to remember, but I doubt scifi lovers will have a problem with that.
The suspense kept me turning pages, the characters were funny and had snappy dialogue, the foreign galaxy was fun to imagine, and the ending made me tear up. The book includes biblical allusions and a strong lesson that kids won’t even know they’re learning until wham! And then they’ll care so much about the story and be so happy at the conclusion that they’ll care about the message.
I agree with another reviewer: Ms. Scheele’s narrative style in this book reminds me of C. S. Lewis’s (and other classic author’s) children’s books. Think of characters like Edmund and Eustace. Readers can stand back and recognize (even be entertained by) the foibles of the characters, but still follow along and care about what happens. It’s a good style for children, I think, because the kids aren’t encouraged to have the same wrong feelings as the protagonists. At the same time, however, there isn’t enough distance to make readers feel like they’re reading from leagues above these characters, either.
Sorry…there I go philosophizing about writing styles. But anyway, I recommend this fun book for kids who like science fiction or fantasy, say from age eight to fourteen or so, or really, for any age—it’s one that adults and young adults like me can enjoy!
I was provided a free copy of this book for my unbiased review.