And then Darkus rescues Baxter from sidewalk dangers, and realizes that Baxter is no ordinary beetle, but one capable of communicating and comprehending human speech. In the rotting old house next door, where two almost farcical brothers argue over the almost farcical squalor, Darkus and two human friends of geeky quirkiness discover a whole colony of similarly gifted insects...(by the end, the two friends have gotten beetle buddies of their own, kind of like insect familiars).
It rurns out that the kidnapping of Darkus' dad, and the existence of the gifted insects, in danger of extermination via pesticide, or worse (there is a villain--a sort of Cruella de Ville of insect-directed malevolence) are two pieces of the same story--a story of genetic manipulation and greed.
It's definitely more than just a mystery, because as well as preternaturally gifted beetles, there is a really disgusting bit of genetic manipulation that involves a person having acquired some insect physiology. Icky!!!!! But kids who enjoy mysteries might well appreciate that aspect of Beetle Boy. Those who like "lonely kid making animal friend" stories, and those who like natural science (there's quite a bit of beetle info. woven into the story) will also like it (as long as they don't mind natural science become un-natural).
I myself liked it fine, and read it with interest and enjoyment, although I really find people with insect legs unappealing and feel that I do not need such images in my head. Though there were some parts of the book in which there were lots and lots and lots of beetles, including maggots, I wasn't that bothered because they were mostly busy moving their insect home of old mugs and jars etc. to a safe location (which is the sort of domestic story I like) and not just writhing insectly around in squirmy ways.
The immediate issues are satisfactorily resolved, and more of the story is coming down the pipeline--I think my fondness for the kids and their
disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher
Three for three this week for agreement between me and Kirkus, who said of Beetle Boy--"Overall, a charming and (at times) affecting romp through beetle land. (entomology dictionary)"