Secretive young prodigy Joe Lawrence moves to Tennessee to quietly attend high school where not too many questions will be asked. He’s accompanied by the disembodied voice of Mike, a self-aware computer program with the emotional maturity of a small boy. Joe and Mike move in with George and Martha, a good-natured couple recovering from the death of their teenage son, Marvin. Presenting Mike as a handicapped friend and computer genius telecommuting to aid him in his everyday life, clever Joe soon becomes a real friend to George and Martha, filling the void in their lives and helping rekindle their love of life. After Joe purchases a rundown former racehorse from ex-mobster Sly, now in the witness protection program, Joe and Mike help the neglected horse while aggravating Sly by getting the better of him in the bargain; they also become involved with Sly’s smart and focused stepdaughter, Sue. As they help heal George and Martha, evade Sly’s revenge and aid Sue in her struggle with the school principal over her newspaper, Joe and Mike undergo a curious metamorphosis as human and AI. Mike was supposed to be the one being tested and trained to grow up—but Joe finds himself growing up, too. The clean, clear text trusts readers to fill in some blanks, and Mike is a prominent but not physical presence throughout the story. The characters are a little old-fashioned and broad but eminently likable and sweet.
Warmly human sci-fi for the YA set.