In Wixon’s debut YA novel, a dyslexic teenager’s trip to Disney World becomes a more serious adventure in which he must stop invading aliens from spreading evil.
Devon would rather listen to music than sit in a classroom at school, where his fellow students often mock him for his dyslexia. So he’s excited when his grandmother suggests a Disney World vacation with his mom, Lindsey, and little sister, Taylor. It’s not the family’s first time to the amusement park, but this year’s different: Grandma says that she needs Devon’s help with something, and she begins by revealing the park’s genuine purpose. The world, it turns out, is secured against evil by the “joyzone layer,” which was, back in the 1930s, dangerously thin in both Florida and California. Walt Disney built his theme parks there to spread joy and help protect the world. It’s also revealed that Devon has special powers—including the ability to know what someone will say after hearing the first word of a sentence—making him a prime candidate to be a protector, like Grandma. And now that the joyzone layer has a hole, his assistance is urgently needed, especially after a repulsive alien breaches the layer and injures his grandmother. It’s up to Devon, armed with a laser gun, to prevent the alien from escaping the park and devastating the planet. Wixon’s story effectively spotlights and champions its dyslexic hero. Devon’s disorder is never portrayed as a detriment and, in fact, may be the reason for his powerful abilities. But other characters are just as intriguing: Taylor unhesitatingly chases after her brother despite her fear of slimy aliens, and a flying-gnome sidekick named Sniffen is always ready to bop Devon on the head for using vulgar language. The briskly paced tale finds Grandma in dire peril, but it also offers sympathy for the aliens, as not all of them are necessarily evil. Most memorable, however, are the expressive scenes depicting Devon’s personal struggle: “the letters wouldn’t cooperate and they’d rearranged themselves right in front of his eyes.”
An educational, witty, and enjoyable tale that showcases its unique protagonist.