Rutland (The Search for the Kinzu Treasure, 2010) mixes adventure, tall tales, exotic alien planets, and one awesome summer camp in this romp of a YA novel.
Gabe Liddy is a “trouble magnet.” So are his brothers, Josh and Nate. In fact, trouble finds them across the stars, from the planet Seti, where five distinct races live and work together. This trouble may even threaten the boys’ beloved summer camp, Camp Leaf, founded by Spyro Bazzi, whose life story sounds like sci-fi. That story is bound up with a mysterious artifact, stranded aliens, and a secret society bent on world domination, if not world destruction. To unravel this mystery, Gabe and his brothers, with the help of Swiz, the talking owl, will have to visit old Dr. Victor December’s place and the ghost that may or may not be haunting it. If they don’t, a malevolent force from across the universe may threaten all of Earth. The alien threat is one of the strong threads of the narrative, and Rutland uses it in the best tradition of alternate history to explain a series of historical incidents (in this case, the Thule Society) in such a way it preserves the events but changes the meanings. This is made even more effective through the use of Gabe as narrator; he occasionally inserts contextualizing commentary. Gabe’s voice is enjoyable, smart, and a little snarky, if perhaps a bit wiser than expected for a 14-year-old. He is, however, a nearly perfect guide for an energetic plot that careens from adventure to adventure.
A madcap YA adventure full of snark and imagination.