Three teenagers in an isolated community have 100 days to figure out how to save the world.
There are two kinds of series for children and teens: those in which each book is a complete story with a beginning, middle and end and those that tell a segment of a tale before simply stopping in the middle. The Phoenix Files falls into the second camp, so Morphew’s series opener feels less like a novel and more like the setup for one. Set in Australia, this fast-paced page-turner with a tried-but-true premise begins when Luke and his high-powered, workaholic mother move to Phoenix, a picture-perfect corporate town that turns out to be seriously sinister underneath. It’s completely cut off from the rest of the world, and worse, as the protagonists later discover, they can’t get out. After Luke and Jordan receive mysterious messages via USB memory stick, they team up with computer-whiz classmate Peter and learn that all the world, excluding Phoenix, is scheduled to end in 100 days. As the clock ticks down—the chapter headings cleverly tell readers the number of days left—the so far largely monochromatic heroes must figure out what is going on, who is responsible and how to stop it.
Compulsively readable commercial-grade series fiction that provides solid thrills but is unsatisfying as a stand-alone. (Thriller. 12 & up)