After her father’s abduction, a middle school genius is sent to a school filled with quirks and quarks.
Thirteen-year-old Nikola, a scientific prodigy who presents white but is of ambiguous race, is the ostracized weirdo at her North Dakota school. On the day she encounters Tabbabitha, the ugliest, oddest-looking girl she’s ever seen, Nikola’s scientist father is abducted and Nikola barely escapes Tabbabitha’s goons herself. For her protection, Nikola’s father had arranged that she be sent to the Plaskington International Laboratory School of Scientific Research and Technological Advancement (“the School” for short), a highly secure, town-sized campus where a small percentage of racially diverse, gifted humans join parahumans in the study of ludicrously advanced science. Extraterrestrial parahumans have all sorts of wild appearances and abilities, and they are very distant cousins to the evil, interdimensional, Lovecraft-ian horrors called Old Ones—of whom Tabbabitha is one. Nikola’s bullying-vs.-friendship storyline plays out with nuance. Although her bullies back home are clearly portrayed as in the wrong, Nikola’s pre-emptive rejection of others doesn’t help; here she decides to turn over a new leaf among other geniuses only to struggle with parahuman social norms. This is juxtaposed against absolute outlandishness, an endless parade of jokes (both sly and knee-slapping), incredibly wacky worldbuilding and characters, and a savvy, refreshing irreverence for the genre. Readers will clamor for more.
A glorious cacophony of wildly inventive gadgets, gags, and action. (Science fiction. 10-14)