Author: Aimee Carter
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Length: 320 pages
Source: ARC from BEA
A thrilling debut in the tradition of Rick Riordan and Brandon Mull about a boy who discovers a secret race of animal shape shifters.
Twelve-year-old Simon Thorn’s life has never been easy or normal, but things like being bullied at school and living in a cramped Manhattan apartment with his Uncle Darrell are nothing compared to his biggest secret: He can talk to animals.
But when his mom is suddenly kidnapped by a herd of rats, Simon finds out that he, his mom, and his uncle are all Animalgams—people born with the ability to change into an animal at will.
In search of his mom, Simon discovers the Animalgam Academy based at the Central Park Zoo. There he learns about the fractured five kingdoms that make up this secret world . . . and realizes he may be the only one who can save it.
This action-packed page-turner is perfect for fans of the Spirit Animals and The School of Good and Evil series.
Protagonist: Simon Thorn lives with his Uncle in New York while his mother travels the world as a research zoologist. His uncle has some pretty strict and strange rules, such as stay out of Central Park, and staying away from animals. Simon starts out as a kid who just wants to disappear, to blend into the crowd and not stand out, but over the course of this book he really begins to build a confidence and bravery. Since this is a Middle Grade book there isn't a lot of obvious character development, from the beginning Simon is a bit defiant and most of the qualities that stand out by the end were there from the beginning in some form but sort of blossom and evolve over the course of the book.
World-Building: So going into this book I didn't quite know what to expect. From what I know this is Carter's first Middle Grade story, and it's not hard to see shades of other popular Middle Grade series in this as well. I think the strongest feeling I got was a Rick Riordan one. While this is in no way a Riordan or Percy Jackson rip-off, there were some moments that felt very Riordan-esque, nothing specific just a feeling, and the world building of both series is on the same level of fantastic. I loved the Animalgam world and the political intrigue between the five kingdoms. Not everything is as it seems in this world and I can't wait to see much more of it.
Predictability: So I really loved the predictability of this book. Since it's a Middle Grade story I thought I had everything figured out, but as the story began to unfold I kept realizing justt how wrong I was. There are a great many twists in this book some that shocked me to my very core, it was hard to know who to trust and who was on the good side in this book. There were quite a few formulaic things that were easier to pic up on but even then sometimes what I expected to happen would turn out a bit differently.
Ending: So this ending really drives it home that this is that first book in what seems to be a fairly long series. It's not that it couldn't be a trilogy, but more that it seems to be just the beginning of something longer. The final climax was crazy, there's so much that happens and some phenomenal twists thrown in during it. The ending was a weird mix of a more plateaued and traditional first book ending, and a cliffhanger. Like I don't feel an intense need to know how the next adventure goes down, but at the same time I want to know more about what happened at the very end, and just what it means.
Carter did a fantastic job on her Middle Grade debut! I loved every minute of it and practically devoured this book in one sitting. Here's to the start of another great series!