A teenager takes up alchemy where his suddenly vanished mom left off and falls afoul of police, vicious thugs and a digital intelligence determined to separate him into generic components.
Battling grief and a loser mentality (the latter reinforced by widespread derision after a quixotic attempt to save a duck frozen into a pond), Steve is electrified when his eccentric great-aunt Shannon transforms an ordinary “clock” into a “lock.” She informs him that he, too, can use words to work transformations—and perhaps discover what happened to his mother. Stronger on action than logic, the plot then proceeds to evolve into a wild tangle. On the one hand, Steve is pursued by police for a series of kidnappings and house trashings that are actually the work of rival alchemist John Dee and his murderous crew, and on the other, he travels back and forth between this plane and a “World of Pieces” where everything is made of numbers and a hypnotic voice urges him to dissolve into a protean liquid. Bunn works a predictable transformation on Steve, who rescues everybody, and caps his debut with a tidy, melodramatic, thoroughly contrived happy ending.
The premise is better than the execution, but readers who aren’t bothered by arbitrary notions and unlikely situations will enjoy the nonstop action.
Alex’s ability to talk with ghosts puts him in famous company when he and his mom move to Hannibal, Missouri.
Alex, 13, is driven by bitter determination to keep his lifelong ability secret, since it’s already led to a diagnosis of schizophrenia that drove his parents apart and cost his mother a decent job, but it’s not easy. For one thing, his new friend, Bones, is a positively obsessed amateur ghost hunter, and for another, ghosts just won’t leave him alone no matter how rudely he treats them. Notable among the latter is Mark Twain himself, as acerbic and wily as he was in life, who is on the verge of involuntarily degenerating into a raging poltergeist unless Alex can find the unspecified, titular treasure. Alex’s search takes him through Clemens’ writings and tragic private life as well as many of the town’s related attractions on the way to a fiery climax in the public library. Meanwhile, Alex has an apotheosis of his own, deciding that lying to conceal his ability and his unhappy past isn’t worth the sacrifice of a valued friendship. Conveniently for the plot’s needs, Clemens and other ghosts can interact with the physical world at will. Wolfe parlays Alex’s ingrained inability to ignore ectoplasmic accosters into some amusing cross-conversations that help lighten his protagonist’s hard inner tests. The cast, living and otherwise, presents as white.
A patchy tale flickering repeatedly from light to dark and back.
Ghostwritten for a fictional 13-year-old character on the ABC Family network show Secret Life of the American Teenager, this September-to-August journal recaps the first season and part of the second—from 15-year-old sister Amy’s revelation that she’s pregnant through her parents’ divorce and the news that her mother herself is expecting. In the snarky tone she generally takes onscreen, narrator Ashley relates events from her own point of view and elaborates on them in long, wordy entries replete with adolescent self-assurance. Of a run-in with the school principal, for instance: “I think the real reason I got into trouble was because I expressed my individuality. It tends to scare authority figures when someone my age does that.” This “enhanced” e-book includes 10 brief video clips embedded in the general vicinity of their relevant passages. There is also a closing page of links to expedite the posting of reader ratings and reviews. Aside from a pair of footnotes pushed to a screen at the end, far away from their original contexts, the translation to digital format works seamlessly for reading/viewing in either single-page/portrait or double-page/landscape orientation. There’s enough standard-issue teen and domestic drama here to keep fans of such fare reading, but devotees of the show may be disappointed at the lack of significant new content, either in the narrative itself or in the e-book’s media features. (Fiction. 11-13)