A group of kids attempts to save the Earth from rampant negativity.
Mary, 13, considers herself average at best. But to her little brother, Albert, she’s Pearl: the one person who can understand the “memos” he sends via mental telepathy. Their father disappeared when Albert was a baby, leaving the siblings with only Ma and Meemaw. One snowy day, Mary receives a startling memo from Albert about an ominous red mist: “bad order.” The mist’s presence plagues humans and animals alike with negative thoughts. Mary, Albert, and their friends Brit and Lars are the only ones who seem to notice. Rather like Meg, Charles Wallace, and Calvin before them, the heroes collaborate with a trio of human-disguised aliens (or, rather, “smart-mass-holograph-research units”) to restore (good) order. But can they successfully patch a rip between the dimensions? Ullman’s quick pace and atmospheric worldbuilding are, unfortunately, overshadowed by a derivative plot. The buffoonish aliens—named Commodore, Med Tech Tek, and Citizen Lady—provide some mitigating comic relief. Eccentricities such as nonverbal communication, picky eating, and a sorting game he plays with dust particles suggest that Albert is on the autism spectrum. Conflated with his telepathic abilities, however, these details exemplify the problematic magical-disability trope. The cast defaults white.
Skip and reread A Wrinkle in Time instead. (Science fiction. 8-12)