A homeless genius orphan is recruited by one organization and hunted by another.
Twelve-year-old orphan Max Einstein never knew her parents, is obsessed with Albert Einstein, lives in a squat above some Central Park stables alongside other good-natured down-on-their-luck types, and attends NYU using fabricated records. Her cozy existence is shattered when the powerful Dr. Zimm and the mysterious Corp target her. Luckily, she’s swept off to Israel, where she meets a group of highly diverse, multicultural fellow child prodigies, the other “contestants” at the Change Makers Institute. (Max is white.) The CMI’s testing them to find a visionary genius prodigy to lead world-improving projects, but Max has more interest in their aims than their tests. (While the book celebrates curiosity and learning, it also repeatedly rebukes standardized tests in favor of creativity and daydreams.) Max takes advantage of a chance to make friends her own age, while the Corp—with an alluded connection to Max’s past—closes in on her. Once a winner’s selected and a team formed, it’s off to the Congo on a mission to bring solar power to a village in hopes of encouraging African investors in industries other than mining (which uses child laborers). Max’s morality, love for humanity, and free spirit make a refreshing counter to the familiar computerlike, elitist genius archetype; evasion scenes bring thrills; problem-solving provides delightful role-modeling. The ending promises a sequel.
A fun, positive book with plenty of heart. (Thriller. 8-12)