A reform school’s rehab program turns out to have a disturbing biological component in this satiric series opener.
When one impulsive act—well, OK, he stole a subway train—lands him in dusty, decrepit Munchem Academy alongside his bad seed big brother, Carter, undersized Mattie Larimore soon discovers the tried-and-true technique of ingratiating himself with the grown-ups isn’t going to secure him an early release. No, it seems there are plans afoot to boost the school’s reputation by producing exact but eager-to-please clones of all the school’s resident bullies and punks. Seeing sudden, bizarre behavior changes in Carter, Mattie embarks on a determined search for his original sibling that takes him from the teachers’ lounge to a high-tech lab beneath a nearby mausoleum. Eventually plans for a complicated denouement collapse, but that’s OK because a) Carter turns out to be not such a bad brother, and b) Mattie comes to realize that, particularly after some editing of the evil Headmaster Rooney’s memories, Munchem isn’t such a terrible place after all. Aside from the two Larimores, whose mother is Dominican, the cast isn’t particularly racially diverse, but Mattie does acquire as allies Eliot and Caroline, squabbling adopted sibs with distinct and special abilities who will, the pseudonymous “Bolivar” assures readers, be his future sidekicks. Stay tuned.
A mildly creepy premise, lots of clueless adults, and teens who are more pranksters than toughs keep the tone light. (Science fiction/suspense. 11-13)