The hero of this YA debut novel, 11-year-old Jackson McKay, learns he has interdimensional powers––though he may just be daydreaming again.
The characters in Jack’s daydreams have always been quite vivid, so much so that he “swore he could feel them. Their touch on his hands, their breath on his face.” Most distinct is a hooded figure called the Master Veriator, who explains that Jack is a Conductoid, a “being who can have another’s powers transmitted through” him. Under the Master Veriator’s tutelage, Jack is whisked away to situations where his powers––sprouting gills to rescue a drowning girl, growing wings to catch a plummeting skydiver––help save lives. Only his best friend, Ty, knows about this secret Conductoid life, tales of which he listens to even if Jack seems a little nuts. Then again, Ty harbors bigger concerns, namely the upcoming soccer match between Walter Cross (their school) and its archrival, Knightsbridge. While Ty frets about the game, Jack’s mother––poised to be her son’s form master next year––and his know-it-all fraternal twin, Phoebe, take turns fretting about his deficient grades and frequent detentions. And Jack? He’s busy trying to avoid run-ins with bullies Damon Le Sauvage and Hartley Stone, arrive at beloved grocery Dibble’s Corner early enough for new sweets, and piece together exactly how his Conductoid visions might connect to his father, presumed drowned after never returning from a swim. It takes a while for Lehane to bridge the gap between Jack’s outer and inner lives. It’s almost as if the author were writing two parallel, unconnected novels: a mysterious fantasy full of interdimensional rules and action, and a coming-of-age tale about the trials and tribulations of a young daydreamer. What keeps the book engaging, even when its plots drag, is Lehane’s energetic prose, often bristling with witticisms and gags––a teacher’s voice, for instance, “sounded as if several bees had decided to take up residence in his left nostril”––that should please fans of Lemony Snicket.
A charming, if meandering, first entry in a proposed fantasy series featuring an exuberant young protagonist.