A cabin full of boys with uncontrollable powers races to change the future in this new adventure from Martin (Code Name Flood, 2017, etc.).
At Camp Outlier, everyone’s a RISK. The “recurring incidents of the strange kind” vary. Some kids spontaneously combust, and others have X-ray vision. Twelve-year-old Emerson floats unless he wears a weighted vest to keep him grounded. When his mom drops him off for two and a half months of government-supervised fun, Emerson discovers that, for the first time, he doesn’t feel out of place. His cabin bands together to win the capture-the-flag tournament and to save their new friend Murphy, a time traveler doomed to disappear forever if they can’t find a way to change his future. The summer-camp setting recalls Camp Half-Blood of the Percy Jackson series, though with far less gender diversity. Although the boys occasionally interact with a cabin of girls, the female characters come across as props in a world where heterosexuality is an unquestioned norm. In one scene, the older campers force Emerson’s cabin into dresses and makeup for their camp initiation. This scene returns as a recurring joke throughout the book. Overall, a retrograde sense of masculinity overshadows what might otherwise be a story about finding kinship and self-confidence. Although the book assumes a white default, some of the campers are diverse.
The plot may be about trying to change the future, but the patriarchal themes in this action story are stuck in the past. (Fantasy. 8-12)