by James Van Pelt (Faiwood Press)
If you enjoyed Paul Melko’s THE WALLS OF THE UNIVERSE, or Jay Lake’s ROCKET SCIENCE, you’ll love this!
Peter is a high schooler who’s best friend is drifting away from much of the closeness they shared since elementary school. He’s found a constantly changing small garbage dump full of broken, unlabeled things in a wooded area near the school, and–since he likes finding things in the trash he can use–Peter frequents it, finding odd–really odd–“treasures.”
Then one day he finds a duffle bag that contains stacks of strangely-heavy black bricks that, when held up to the sun, are full of dense golden circuitry. And a gun. An odd gun with a fist-shaped mass where the barrel should be, and a grip that is designed to accommodate six fingers. Testing his odd find is at first explosive, then embarrassing, then frightening. Three groups of people are attracted by the use of the gun: the “blue suits” who say they’re from the FBI, the mysterious “helicopter patrols,” and the regular police/army. What the gun really is, and who these groups really represent makes an ingenious thriller set in a backdrop of current events like hackers vs. firewalls, cell phones vs. jamming, blanket school emails, phone encryption vs. GPS – all filtered through characters that manage to stay one step ahead of their pursuers via loyalty, friendship, shared memories of childhood, and parents who don’t have a clue but love their teens.
To those who know James Van Pelt, the educator, there is almost an Easter Egg quality to his protagonist’s “super power” – being good at writing papers for school. These papers and their subjects are how VanPelt packs layers of meaning into a story you could wholeheartedly recommend to your favorite teen or tween, and enjoy on a deeper level as an adult.