So in any event, The Fellowship For Alien Detection, by Kevin Emerson (Walden Pond Press, Feb 26, 2013) is true blue sci fi, one to which I can comfortably apply the shopworn, but sincere, adjectives "exciting" and "fun." Albeit with a slight reservation.
Haley thinks aliens have been kidnapping people. Dodger hears a radio station in his head, broadcasting from a town that doesn't exist. When Haley and Dodger both get summer grants from the mysterious Fellowship for Alien Detection, they're off on two separate road trips to find out the truth. Haley and her dad head south and west from Connecticut, and Dodger and his go east and south from Washington. And when their paths converge, they find that the truth is even stranger, and much scarier, than they had ever dreamed.
Each kid's journey to that convergence point is told as a distinct story. I was not expecting this--there I was, happily following Haley (smart girl, would-be reporter) on the track of her interesting mystery (involving missing time and missing persons), and things were getting excitingly tense....then suddenly Haley is left on a metaphorical cliff and the story jumps to Dodger's journey. Haley's story and Dodger's are rather different in mood (Dodger's being darker), and this added to my uncertainty about narrative coherence. And then there were small extracts from the very mysterious life of a third character, another kid....I enjoyed them, and they added suspense, but I was confused.
However, everything does fit together, and very nicely too. All three narrative strands conjoin, and everything becomes very exciting indeed.
My only reservation is that the author spends considerable time making sure that the reader really Knows the characters, which is fine, except that it throws the balance off a tad--there's a lot of character development before Haley's true adventure starts, and then we go back and have lots of character development before Dodger's gets going. I found this made the book less of an all-absorbing read than it might otherwise have been (perhaps because it also made the book longer). And so I'd recommend it to kids who already are strong readers, rather than annoyingly picky ones like some children I live with.
My only other slight reservation about the book is that the cover makes it look a tad younger than is accurate--I think it's one for eleven-year olds, rather than nine-year olds.
That being said, it was great fun to see all the different little mysteries and clues that had filled the first three hundred pages converging into a whole, and I think this one has as much appeal to the mystery loving kid as it does to the reader of speculative fiction. Although if you have a kid on hand who is fascinated by Roswell, you should definitely offer them this book.
Here are two other review (both glowing) from Maria's Melange and This Kid Reviews Books
And for those in the Seattle area--there's a launch party on March 5 at Mockingbird Books...
disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher