Today, I’m very excited to share with you the latest book by John David Anderson – a return to the speculative fiction that first drew me to his work. Be sure to make it to the end for the giveaway and the other stops on the tour!
About the Book:
The beloved author of Posted and Ms. Bixby’s Last Day returns with the first book in a coming-of-age sci-fi duology about Leo, a kid trying to navigate the galaxy in order to save his family—and, possibly, the planet Earth.
When scientists discover a rare and mysterious mineral buried in the Earth’s crust, they have no idea that it just happens to be the most valuable substance in the entire universe. It’s not long before aliens show up to our little corner of the galaxy offering a promise of protection, some fabulous new technology, and entry into their intergalactic coalition—all in exchange for this precious resource. A material so precious that other alien forces are willing to start a war over it. A war that soon makes its way to Earth.
Leo knows this all too well. His mother was killed in one such attack, and soon after, his father, a Coalition scientist, decides it would be best for them to leave Earth behind. It’s on this expedition that their ship is attacked, Leo’s father is kidnapped, and Leo and his brother are stranded in the middle of space. The only chance they have is for Leo to stow away on a strange ship of mercenary space pirates bound for who knows where and beg the captain to help him find his father.
But the road is dangerous, and pirates, of course, only look out for themselves. Leo must decide who to trust as he tries to stay alive and save his family, even as he comes to understand that there aren’t many people—human or alien—that he can count on in this brave new universe.
About the Author
John David Anderson is the author of many highly acclaimed books for kids, including the New York Times Notable Book Ms. Bixby’s Last Day, Posted, Granted, One Last Shot, and Stowaway. A dedicated root beer connoisseur and chocolate fiend, he lives with his wonderful wife, two frawesome kids, and clumsy cat, Smudge, in Indianapolis, Indiana. You can visit him online at www.johndavidanderson.org.
As you’d expect from John David Anderson, this multi-layered story blends exciting adventure, heartbreak, found family, and a hard look at what progress is and who pays for it. The book starts in the middle – Leo Fender and his older brother Gareth are playing tag when their ship is attacked by Coalition enemy the Djarik. Leo is forced to flee with only the two items he always carries with him – his smartwatch and his inhaler, which he frequently needs for his anxiety-induced asthma. Once stowed away, we meet the crew of the Icarus – the flamboyant, classic rock t-shirt-wearing captain, Bastian Black, who brags of the price on his head. The tough-as-nails former street thief Katarina Corea, who has the requisite piratical metal arm. The gentle giant alien Boo, an outcast from his own society, and Skits, the snarky robot with the attitude of a rebellious teen. And even though Leo has a healthy distrust of pirates, these are the only people between him and the void of space.
But intercut with the present-day timeline of Leo trying to reunite with the rest of his family are stories of his life on Earth, before and soon after his mother’s death. Leo and his mother had bonded over magic tricks, collected seashells together, and mourned when the smog got so bad that hummingbirds no longer visited their yard. Leo watched as his adored father struggled to avoid despair after his mother’s death, and though Dr. Calvin Fender sees leaving Earth as a way to embrace hope and the future, Leo refuses to be happy about leaving the home they shared when their family was home.
And yet, when Leo is on his own, caught right in between the two sides of the war and wanted by both, he will find ways to use lessons learned from both his parents, as well as the two items he was able to bring with him, to overcome his anxiety and save the day. At least enough to see another day, because this is definitely not the end of the story. As in Ms. Bixby’s Last Day, there is a fine blend of adventure, humor, and grief, with the kind of twist that readers of Sidekicked would expect. I saw the twist coming this time, but it was still good both for the story function and for the deeper thoughts behind the book. I’ll definitely be on board for the next one!
Fans of accidental space adventures could also read Seventh Grade vs. the Galaxy by Joshua Levy, Last Day on Mars by Kevin Emerson, Hunt for the Hydra by Jason Fry or Mars Evacuees by Sophia MacDougall.
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