Busy monster-chasing adventures in an alternate-universe Hollywood, California.
Brown introduces 11-year-old buddies Tommy Wainwright, Collen “Spike” Hernandez, and Karim Khalil, who’s the son of legendary fantastic-beast hunter and former TV star Yousef “The Fang” Khalil. What starts as the threesome trapping—and Tommy taking a selfie with—a basilisk at their school moves to their successfully catching a mischievous gremlin before failing to nab a two-toed snipe. Along the way, they ensnare the attention of AppVenture, an online monster-elimination service with some questionable branding and job practices, including hiring the underage trio. Characterization is uneven. The author develops Tommy from a white male “beefcake” to a loving big brother who uses his AppVenture earnings to send his 8-year-old sister to Adventure Camp and Karim (who presents black) from a son scared of his own—and his father’s—shadow to a young person claiming his legacy. Unfortunately, Spike comes across as a person with anti-social personality disorder in the guise of a plucky Latina heroine who deeply resents her father, Luis, who divorced her mother, moved across the country, and resurfaces as an employee at AppVenture. This mixes with some unnecessary punching-down jokes about suing for fat discrimination and a tiresome running gag about Tommy’s love for the protein product Brotein.
Still, how the friends proceed makes for an amiable tale and a subtly scathing critique on today’s exploitative media culture and gig economy. (Science fantasy. 8-12)