Scholastic, 2016 241 pages
Horizon Series Book 1
Four science nerds traveling from Brooklyn to the Robot Soccer World Championships in Japan find themselves stranded in the Arctic when their plane crashes. Only it doesn't look like the arctic, it looks and feels like a jungle. And where are all the other passengers? The only people still present are a bossy older teenager, an intense Japanese-American boy with a powerful vintage Samurai sword, and two Japanese girls who speak no English, but are talented in drawing and music. The eight young people try to make sense of their environment, even though it seems inconceivable. They need to find food, water, and explore the local terrain. After some experimenting they figure out which berries are safe to eat and learn to hunt an unfamiliar local bird for meat. Further exploration leads them to a hand-held machine that produces zero gravity, which allows them to fly through the trees, covering more ground. Danger ensues as the new friends try to discover more about the strange environment and one of their band has a fatal accident. But where exactly are they? And what happened to the other passengers? And why are there two moons? These mysteries are not solved completely by book's end, but some clues are offered, leading us to the next installment in the series, set to be released in September by Jennifer Nielsen.
Scott Westerfeld, author of the popular Uglies series, takes a respite from YA and enters the world of children's series fiction. Much in the tradition began with the 39 Clues, volumes in the series are projected to be released every six months penned by different authors. Also as with the 39 clues, the series will have great kid-appeal, featuring a plot-intensive story with much action and adventure and starring both male and female characters, opening the series to both girls an boys. The length is perfect, the chapters short and the cover and layout are appealing. An extra feature to the series is a game offered for free through Scholastic. It can be accessed through the publisher's website or through an app. I tried the game and it was a cut above the usual games developed to accompany books. I think the game will be a draw and will encourage kids to read the books. Perfect for reluctant readers, every library should stock the series and its a good choice for parents and teachers to suggest to stubborn students. The characters are not particularly developed and the plot is not plausible, but that doesn't matter, its not that kind of a book. Its almost like reading a comic book, but without the images. Horizon is a series designed to turn kids into readers and then, hopefully, they will grow into books at the next level with a bit more substance.