A gifted codebreaker exposes himself and his family to danger when he solves an impossible puzzle.
William Wenton’s parents refuse to discuss the event eight years previous that sent them into hiding and left his father in a wheelchair. But a brutal home invasion and an incredible rescue land William’s parents in protective custody and him in a specialized school for gifted technophiles. Killer plants, bizarre robots, and impossible puzzles are the norm at the Institute for Post-Human Research. There he also learns about his family’s mysterious past and discovers the reason for his grandfather’s disappearance. However, even among the gifted, William is a standout, making him both a target for the institute’s bully and not particularly interesting as a character. Some late-night sleuthing yields even more questions, leaving William wondering whom he can trust. Once it’s set up, the fast-moving and inventive plot lacks a cohesive story and character development. A combination of frenetic energy and arbitrary plot twists yields a story that feels both chaotic and exhausting. The intriguing setting, wacky robots, and clever gadgets are appealing, but flat characters, a confusing mystery, and an unsympathetic hero create an adventure that is unlikely to hold readers’ attention. William is white, and the school is not a notably diverse one.
An unfortunate mix of a great premise and poor execution kicks off a series; here’s hoping subsequent volumes improve. (Science fiction. 8-12)