An African-American tween uses espionage skills and superpowers in this debut middle-grade novel.
Seventh-grader Marty Hayes is excited to work with the world-renowned CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing kit in science class. But things go awry when insect eggs turn into mosquitoes and swarm the classroom. Miraculously, Marty reins them in. When his Granny hears what happened, she starts to worry that the world will discover that Marty has inherited superpowers that run in the family. She is in the Order of the Hannibal, a society of people with superpowers. Marty is able to materialize anything, especially with the help of his smartphone’s drawing app. For example, he attempts to impress his crush, Aisha, by conjuring a jet pack at swim practice. Meanwhile, two suspicious men who are after the CRISPR launch a drone to capture its data. Marty and his best friend, Christopher, use spy tools to figure out who is sabotaging the class’s CRISPR experiments, and eventually it’s revealed that Wade, the school bully, is somehow involved. As Granny’s anxiety over Marty’s gifts escalates, she approaches him and explains his powers. While she gives him her Order of the Hannibal Medal to control and amplify his abilities, she asks him to refrain from employing them. Relieved his secret is out, Marty agrees. But on a visit to the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C., a crisis arises. Will Marty save the day? Despite the superhero framework, Hyler’s fast-paced tale deftly touches on scientific elements like genome study. In addition, she skillfully deals with some significant historical episodes in her narrative. For example, Granny recounts how her superpowers impacted integral events in the civil rights movement. But some threads of the story could be expanded. For instance, Aisha has superpowers and her grandmother is also in the Order, which is primarily chronicled in one chapter from the girl’s viewpoint. Additionally, details about the Order are vague. Still, this leaves plenty of material for a possible sequel. This rousing book with engaging characters should appeal to readers who enjoy adventurous superhero sagas.
A thrilling tale with series potential that highlights science, spying, black history, and the importance of family.