I received this book as an ARC at the American Library Annual Conference in Las Vegas (are you sensing a theme?). This book is a middle grade, which I usually don’t enjoy, but this one was pretty awesome and FULL of action, adventure, and mystery. Here’s the synopsis from the back of the book:
“Eleven-year-old Albert Flynn has just learned he’s a Balance Keeper – someone with special magical skills for fixing problems in three underground realms at the center of the earth.
There’s no time to waste – an Imbalance in the Calderon Realm is threatening to destroy New York City above. Can Albert and his teammates restore balance before New York is destroyed forever?”
1. Don’t lie. You always wanted to be a spy as a kid, or some kind of secret agent. These kids actually DO it!
These kids are living all of our dreams of being totally awesome, crime-fighting, kick butt and take names superheroes. Even before they are fully trained, everything they do is super awesome, especially when it comes to their powers. Their powers come from Tiles, which – kind of like the wand choosing the wizard in Harry Potter – choose them in a mystical waterfall in the Core – which is exactly what it sounds like: their secret base located in the core of the Earth. From the beginning there is mystery, and it hooks you from the start.
2. If you thought your parents were weird when you were a kid, you have NO idea.
The parents in this book are so awesome. I’m not going to give away any spoilers, so let’s just say his dad is the absolute coolest. I enjoyed the family dynamic in this book because you don’t see a lot of middle grade books with blended families. Albert’s mom lives in New York with a new husband. He has half and step siblings. His father lives in Wyoming with his grandfather, where he spends his summers sorting mail at the local post office. Then, everything gets crazy and weird and awesome.
3. There are so many animals in this book!
If you’re anything like me, you follow the author – Lindsay Cummings – on Twitter and Instagram. If you don’t follow her, there is something you should know about her: she LOVES animals. She has a horse, a hedgehog (named Hedwig) and I think three dogs. The animals in this book range from an awesome dog named Farnsworth to animals from Cummings’ imagination. These animals are awesome. But, if I had to choose one to have forever, it would totally be Farnsworth. (I love dogs.)
4. The main character, Albert, is an everyman.
Albert thinks he’s weird. And, if you’re not familiar with the term “everyman,” the quick definition is a character that could be anybody. Most people can relate to him and see bits of themselves within him. That being said, Albert is a fantastic main character. He doesn’t really have friends until he arrives in the Core. He is kind, smart, and his bravery is unmatched. Something kind of disappointing happens to him in the beginning, but then we find out it is SO not disappointing. (Again, no spoilers).
5. This is an underdog story.
I love underdogs! I love them in sports, I love them in movies, and I especially love them in books. This is definitely an underdog story, but most of the kids in the Core starting out are underdogs. They’re less underdogs and more…inexperienced. There is a bully named Hoyt in this story who makes Albert and his team (Team Hydra) work for everything they win and achieve.
6. The writing is fantastic!!!!
I only recently read Cummings’ other work. She has a YA novella out called The Fear Trials and a YA novel called The Murder Complex. I recently read both, which fueled my extreme want for reading this. The writing is concise, clear, and creative. Even though Cummings is building this entire fantasy world that lives and moves underneath our own, I didn’t once have to stretch my imagination to imagine this. She has this way of making this world so believable and REAL that I almost wish I would have been tapped as a Balance Keeper since I never got my Hogwarts letter. I am very excited to read everything Cummings produces in the future. Go Lindsay!
Overall: FOUR STARS! The beginning kind of lagged and that’s why I am taking away one star. It took me a little bit to get past the first couple chapters. But, after that, it catches you and does NOT let you go. This book is released in the world on September 23, 2014 so clicky clicky on the link to pre-order!