Life gets strange for 12-year-old Charlie Wilde after she moves to a new town and finds a bracelet that grants her animal-based powers.
The cross-country relocation from Chicago to Navarro Junction, Arizona, changes everything for Charlie. Her former stay-at-home biologist dad now teaches at a community college. Her doctor mom works erratic hours as head of the town’s ER, away from home more often than not. Trying out for the soccer team, making new friends (and a potential frenemy), and helping out on a school play also weigh on Charlie. McMann shines best here when exploring Charlie’s efforts to adapt to her new life. For a majority of the first half, the novel moves slowly, which makes all the struggles of being a new girl—as when Charlie wonders if a potential friend would want to hang out—feel like monumental moments. Throughout such scenes, the author peppers in signs about Charlie’s new powers. Once Charlie realizes that her bracelet gives her, for example, the strength of an elephant and the speed of a cheetah, she swings from fearing her newfound abilities to wanting to know more. The development of her powers borders on clichéd (another burning building to test the protagonist?), but the narrative picks up steam during the final pages. A cliffhanger ending promises a much more action-packed sequel. Race and ethnicity of characters other than Charlie are signaled by names and physical characteristics; readers will likely infer that Charlie is white.
A beginning full of potential. (Science fiction. 8-12)