- Age Range: 8 - 12 years
- Grade Level: 3 - 7
- Lexile Measure: 850L (What's this?)
- Series: Starbounders (Book 1)
- Hardcover: 320 pages
- Publisher: HarperCollins (June 4, 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0062120220
- ISBN-13: 978-0062120229
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 13 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #371,572 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Starbounders Hardcover – June 4, 2013
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From School Library Journal
Gr 4-6–What looks like a normal boarding school is just the cover for Indigo 8, the Earth command center for the Inter Planetary Defense League and its secret training facility for young Starbounders. As a new trainee, Zachary Night has big shoes to fill. His ancestors have been Starbounders for generations, his parents were expert space pilots, and his big brother was one of the youngest Elite Corps recruits ever. With his new friends, rebellious Kaylee and alien Ryic, Zachary is excited to begin training. Unfortunately, the kids discover that something is very wrong at the academy. There are way too many dangerous “accidents”–including a near-fatal malfunction in the antigravity training Qube and deadly alien vreeks set loose at a picnic. Then, the three are assigned to their first off-planet mission, and their ship is hijacked by interstellar thugs. It crash-lands on the desert planet Sirocco, and the crooks begin to regard their hostages as expendable–or possibly edible. The action-filled story races from crisis to crisis, taking the junior Starbounders across the cosmos and into the thick of a plot that threatens to destroy Indigo 8–and Earth itself. In the grand tradition of juvenile adventure tales, the kids successfully outwit adult villains, sneak in and out of enemy strongholds, and operate high-tech equipment and top-secret spacecraft. The combination of boarding school high jinks and science fiction derring-do meshes surprisingly smoothly, and there are plenty of plot threads left for a sequel. Black-and-white chapter head illustrations show many of the alien weapons and creatures described in the text. A satisfying choice.–Elaine E. Knight, formerly at Lincoln Elementary Schools, ILα(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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I read this book because I have read the first two books of Epstein's and Jacobson's Familiars series. I usually don't go for books where talking animals are the main characters, but these guys hooked me enough to continue with the series, so I knew they were good (I read the first one so I could talk knowledgeably about it with my seventh graders).
Basically, in this book, the three main characters attend a school that prepares them for a life of intergalactic crime-fighting adventure. Think Men in Black. There's a Outerverse out there that we common folk don't know about. Two of the main characters (Zachary and Kaylee) are humans who have just finished the eighth grade year in regular school. A third (Ryic) is an alien who is basically humanoid and of the equivalent age on his planet. The school is kind of like a high tech Camp Half-Blood, only instead of satyrs, centaurs, and nymphs, you have aliens as weird as a barroom scene from Star Wars. Interestingly, the only slow part of the book is the time they spend at the school itself.
The plot's pace takes off when they leave the school on their first space trip, which almost immediately goes terribly wrong. Wow, once the action starts it is of scorching intensity with high g-force twists and turns until the end. The three are thrown from one life threatening scenario into another, finding unlikely allies and horribly dangerous enemies. When they discover a plot to destroy Earth and realize they are the only ones who have a chance of stopping it, the action really ratchets up. Character development is well-done, and I found the characters believable and likable even if I couldn't personally relate to, say, fighting aliens who multiply when heated. Some of the dialogue is a bit hokey, but for some reason it didn't bother me, and I don't think it will bother my students.
If you are a grown-up, you will find the story totally unbelievable if you don't buy in to the premise of such a universe. If you can't, don't bother reading the book or renting any of the Men in Black movies. Outside of that, the authors do a good job of remaining consistent to the boundaries of possibility and science.
Kids, however, almost never have this problem. Bestsellers are often based on "impossible" worlds (duh, think Percy Jackson or Harry Potter). As long as the action is solid, the characters real (teens who act like teens, for example), and the story consistent, kids can suspend belief better than a fish can swim.
This is a great read for middle schoolers, a definite five-star; I think anyone who likes a fun, fast-paced reading experience will enjoy it as well.
Story: Zachary, Quee, Ryic, and Kaylee are pondering the riddle set by Olari at the end of book one. When they start to unravel the clues, they will go AWOL from Indigo 8, commandeer ships, and head out to find a device necessary to decipher the strange symbol on Zachary's arm. What they will find is a plot bigger than they could have gaussed, and they will have to use each of the member's unique talents in order to not only survive, but also save the outerverse.
Those who were a bit bored by the academy scenes in book one will be glad to know that most of the book 2 takes place all across the outerverse. The group of friends will follow one lead, only to get another, until eventually they begin to find the cause behind Olari's frantic fears. By the end of the book, they will have solved one mystery but discover there is even more out there, involving the past and the future, that the crew will have to solve.
There isn't a lot of science in Starbounders, which seems a shame to have it set in the sci fi genre. But the authors make good use of the warp gloves and there's definitely no down time in this second book in the series (more to come). The kids pretty much operate autonomously, disregarding nearly all boundaries and laws - breaking in, stealing, disregarding adults, etc., and get rewarded for that at the end. I think parents will cringe at the themes here but my 12 year old liked it decently enough. My adult brain kept picking apart the logic holes and unrealistic scenes (a robot having a unique biometric handprint to unlock a ship's command? A planet following the sudden orders of an academy boy in space to blow up a starship, no reason given? Blowing up a random sun or two just to see if their bomb works before setting after the real target? Quee can hack anything, anywhere, any time?)
There's definitely adventure fun here, though neither my daughter nor I laughed outloud or found any humor (other than well trod quips). She rated it four stars and since she's the intended audience, I am using her rating.
Reviewed from an ARC.
ABSOLUTELY LOVED IT
Imagine that there is a secret "outerverse" beyond our own universe, a place in space that is hidden from even the most astute astronomer. Now imagine that preteens are trained to work in said space with aliens from other planets! Yes, in Starbounders, teens are trained to be "kids in black"! Zachary comes from a family of fighters that are sworn to protect the universe from evil. As Zachary moves into his new school to continue his education after eighth grade. There he meets up with Kaylee, another human and Ryic, an alien but still very human-like. Parts of this book really reminded me of a Jumanji - Star Wars mixed with a bit of Star Trek and throw in some Hitchhikers Guide, the younger years, and you will understand what I am talking about.
This story should really appeal to middle grade boys, that really hard to please class that enjoy bathroom humor along with some spacey ideas. The story really becomes exciting when the group takes off on their first mission. I can see that this series will be an exciting adventure. This story would also be a great book to read out loud for younger kids, although I can imagine that it would turn into one of those books that the parents will also want to stay up just an extra chapter as well. The dialogue is just wonderful and I really enjoyed all of the alien descriptions.