The series begun with Bounders (2016) continues, with a new adventure for Jasper and his friends.
They are enhanced humans called Bounders, bioengineered for quantum space travel. It’s vacation, but 12-year-old white narrator Jasper and his ethnically diverse pod mates are called back to duty—but not to the academy, as the pod is to be used as test subjects for a new advanced technology. But for what reason? The pod mates are immediately suspicious of the cloak-and-dagger explanations offered by their superiors, especially when they are taken to an unexpected location: the bitterly cold planet of Gulaga, where the Tundra Trials will take place. Their Earth Force handler is leaning on Jasper, and his closest friend, Mira (also white), to keep secrets from their pod mates as they participate in this inter-pod competition. The plot should feel like it’s thickening, but this series feels like training wheels for teen dystopian fiction, a middle-grade tale of groups of kids competing against one another for what is revealed to be a military purpose. Secret political deals are made by adults behind closed doors while kids are put on the front lines so that their supercool abilities can be exploited. Unfortunately, characterization, dialogue, and worldbuilding are not up to the depth required for a serious examination of the premise.
By-the-numbers genre fiction. (Science fiction. 10-14)