Seven Against Mars by Martin Berman-Gorvine
Here’s the official plot description:
Trapped in the Warsaw ghetto in 1942, teenager Rachel Zilber escapes the horror by writing about the adventures of Zap-Gun Jack and Princess Anya of Mars. When her parents are captured by the Nazis, Rachel’s transported into her make-believe world, but the danger is far from over. Together with Katie, a girl from the future, Rachel joins Jack and a rag-tag band of misfits to fight the evil Lord Ares III of Mars and restore Princess Anya to her rightful place on the Martian throne.
The adventure is as over-the-top as you’d expect from an homage to pulp fiction, and this is done with a great sense of humor – both Rachel and Katie (who read Rachel’s book in the library) find that the bombastic hero speech so fun to read and write about is a little less easy to deal with in real life. There’s a lot more going on here as well. Rachel and Katie both wonder since Rachel’s imaginary world became real, if she could rewrite the pasts of their own world to rescue their parents. Rachel finds that the world that she imagined isn’t exactly as she’d written it in real life. All of it is fully fleshed out, some with details that Katie had imagined when she read it, some from Rachel’s subconscious or abandoned story ideas. While this leads to a lot of very funny moments, it also leads to a lot of introspection on Rachel’s part. She’d never imagined meeting the idealized version of herself that wrote as the love interest in the book in person, and finds it incredibly awkward. She’s shocked to find that residents of Mars speak what they call Marpolski, and that there’s even a colony of Hasidic Jews on Mars, which she’s been raised to view as backwards. As Katie and Rachel explore how the magic of the written word works, it’s looking at the relationship between author and reader. I’ll admit that it took me a chapter or two to get into the story, but once I did, I was hooked. Though Katie is a fine character, she’s never quite as fully developed as Rachel. This book wraps up its plot nicely, but finishes with introducing a new problem for our heroines to solve, so perhaps Katie will have more of a turn on center stage in the next book.
Seven Against Mars is being billed as a teen book, but, with lots of action and violence no higher than your typical Percy Jackson and just a smidge of romance on the side, this is a book with a lot of appeal for older middle grade readers. On the other end of the spectrum, there so many levels of things going on that there’s plenty to engage an adult reader as well. I fell hard for the combination of action, humor, strong characters, and reflections on identity and literature.
This book was provided to me in .pdf format by the author in exchange for an honest review. It’s available for purchase in print and ebook formats, but unlike most of the books I review here, is not yet available in public libraries. Check back here on Saturday as I interview Martin Berman-Gorvine in alibrarymama’s first-ever author interview.