James Patterson & Chris Grabenstein
Jimmy/Little Brown, 2018 318 pages
Max Einstein series #1
Brilliant and homeless, orphan Max Einstein has a passion for science and technology, much like her idol and namesake, Albert. Snatched while taking classes at NYU, Max is pressed into service by a group of individuals, headed by the mysterious "benefactor", looking to make the world a better and healthier place. Meanwhile, the nefarious Dr. Zimm and his evil organization, The Corp, try to also snatch Max, encouraging her to turn to the dark side and use her powers for evil. Once whisked away, Max is taken to Jerusalem where she is introduced to other brilliant kids who are set to compete with each other to determine which one is the best fit to solve the problems of the world. After a kidnapping attempt and many bogus tests, Max wins the competition. Before she accepts the position, Max demands that her new friends help her with whatever mission is assigned. The team is sent to rural Africa, where they are given the task of bringing electricity to a desolate village where the children work deep in the mines to keep their families fed. The mine owners do not want the village economically independent and wreak havoc on the team's efforts. Will Max and her buddies solve the village's problems with their scientific know-how and keep themselves safe?
Patterson and Grabenstein are truly a dream-team. Together, and separately, they have written fun and high-interest books that kids enjoy reading. This new series is certainly up to their usual standards and then some. Appealing to science-minded kids, the authors bring in a layer of technology and invention all while maintaining the adventure, plot twists, and humor that readers have come to expect from their work. Max is a female, encouraging girls to delve into the world of science and adventure, yet is presented androgynous enough to not turn away male readers. Smart kids will enjoy seeing technology and quick thinking save the day, while the uninitiated may delve further into this world, specifically the work of Einstein, Max's mentor. This story is a non-stop ride and the plot never flags. It does not delve too deeply into character development, but it’s not that kind of a book and, because the kids are from different countries, it is easy to tell them apart. By book's end the reader discovers the identity of Max's mysterious "Benefactor". Left dangling is the truth behind Max's parentage, of which the evil Dr. Zimm holds the answers, leading the reader to the second in the series, yet to be released. An enjoyable and adventurous read that all young readers should enjoy, whether or not they are science geeks.