While accompanying his father and uncle on a real estate venture to the local junkyard, 11-year-old Jerome Barnes discovers an underground town filled with sentient creatures made from discarded items.
Jerome’s scavenging leads him to Arkie, a boy fashioned out of an ice chest, an old coffee can, and other assorted objects. The two become fast friends. The odd companionship is a welcome one for Jerome, who is still grieving over the recent tragic death of both his mother and his younger brother. Arkie is equally pleased to have someone to accompany him on his adventures both aboveground and below. When the Lifestream, the force that gives life to the recycled residents of Smithytowne, is corrupted, Jerome and Arkie must work together to save the homes of humans and Scrappers alike. The premise is delicious, and the underlying message that warns against consumerism and consumption is admirable, but formulaic characters, an obvious mystery, and clunky dialogue undermine its impact. The story is further plagued by a series of plot twists that serve only to prolong the story. And while Jerome holds promise as a hero, the over-the-top villain is more cartoonish than truly frightening, destroying any real tension.
Lacks energy, finesse, and focus. (Fantasy. 8-12)