Negative feelings take on lives of their own and literally run rampant in this novelistic cousin to Gremlins.
Prone to serious panic attacks and massive emotional storms—all exacerbated by his parents’ recent ugly divorce—12-year-old Steve “Slim” Pickings is infected in a lab accident with genetically altered amoebae that transform, when he sneezes them out, into bulbous furry creatures that embody his every blast of annoyance or anxiety. Worse yet, not only do these proliferating peeves (“Personal Vexation Zoners”) turn out to be contagious, but after a certain point they combine into big, gelatinous bugbears. These, in turn, soon meld into a gigantic, massively destructive spite. In no time the whole town has collapsed into chaos. Tucking in plenty of CGI-ready peeve action, the author pitches Slim and his allies through a series of narrow squeaks to the inevitable encounter with the mad scientist behind the PVZs. By the feel-good ending, Slim’s parents have at least eased up on each other, and he himself has both a new girlfriend and enough of a handle on his emotions that he opts to keep a few peeves around as (wait for it) pets. Slim and his formerly nuclear family present as white, but the author studiously diversifies a supporting cast that prominently includes African-American schoolmate Suzie and her interracial dads.
Not the most original or ambitious concoction but allegorically clever, relentlessly frantic in pace, and replete with marketable toys and sentiments. (Fantasy. 10-13)