Nikki works through abandonment issues while joining the rest of her Genius Academy class in taking on a mad, bad scientist.
In a storyline high on angst and action but airily free of internal logic, the Genius Academy squad is abruptly dispatched to the Galápagos Islands to find a hidden ring with unknown but dangerous “technologies.” Could the mission have anything to do with Nikki’s long-thought-dead criminal father or a similar ring made by his rival? Keating continues to name and model her cast after actual historical figures; it’s a cute tweak, but she squanders any scientific could-be–ism as, in a cloud of vague references to “cellular realignment” and “nanomachines,” she has the rings magically transform wearers into another person, animal, or monster (clothes included) with a wish backed by any strong emotion. Being so obsessed and enraged by her dad’s long absence, for example, that she has trouble thinking of anything else, Nikki turns out to be a dab hand at changing herself and others into ferrets…a skill that plays a crucial role in the climax as the “crazed” but clever baddie, despite violent mood swings oddly reminiscent of Nikki’s own, nearly pulls off a slick escape. In all, it’s a sad follow-up to a promising first outing. Nikki presents white; her fellow geniuses are diverse.
A slapdash contraption made up of contrivances and losing STEAM at every joint. (Science fantasy. 10-13)