In current-day Lexington, Kentucky, and Cardiff, Wales, two young teens exposed to life-threatening elements become superhumans.
Chemistry is the unifying propeller and storytelling tool throughout this series opener. Cousins and best friends Suzie, 13, and Diego have interesting families: Suzie’s mom is an artist and her dad a nuclear engineer; Diego’s parents are educators, one in biology, the other in history; and Gran is from Wales. When Suzie’s dad must take a leave from work, the family visits Cardiff, where Gran takes the kids to visit their deceased grandfather’s workplace, a university lab. There, the kids are exposed to high levels of radiation, requiring hospitalization. Afterward, it turns out the two can see invisible waves of all sorts—not side effects but supernatural abilities. Toggling between Suzie’s and Diego’s perspectives, the narrative is heavy in chemistry facts, occasionally presented in dialogue but also as asides or interjections. Intermittent abrupt or choppy transitions may confuse readers, and they may also wonder at the ease with which these kids put themselves at risk. Preece and Reynolds offer much diversity in characters (Susie appears to be an Asian adoptee with white parents, and Diego is mixed-race, with a black Latino dad and white mom), though that does not play a crucial role, and the illustrations also help to communicate the chemistry.
Though it’s not the clearest of reads, a strong cliffhanger will have readers who make it through, especially those with chemistry interests, coming back for more. (Graphic science fiction. 9-13)