Stories are not democratic. Not everybody gets to be the main character.
The hero of this science-fiction novel is an 11-year-old boy named Happy Conklin Jr., and if it had been anybody else, the story wouldn’t have worked. His little sister, Kayla, would have defeated the alien menace in about 10 minutes. As her brother describes her, she “knows everything,” and she’s a master at using “footwork and body language” to keep an opponent off balance. She can also see the future due to events in series opener How to Sell Your Family to the Aliens (2018). Happy’s older sister, Alice, would be an even worse protagonist, because her main interests are stealing things and threatening people who get in her way. Happy is just awkward enough to be an underdog: tongue-tied and anxious. His haplessness also allows for some good jokes. A cartoon segment in which he takes 16 panels to respond to a cute girl’s comment shows Noth’s mastery of comic timing. But it’s all the characters, in combination, who make the book worth reading. Even the cute girl is distinctive and appealing, though—as the cute girl—she’s a little dull. All the characters, however—even those not related by blood—seem to be white. The plot feels a bit fragmentary (it ends on an abrupt cliffhanger), but plot’s hardly the point here.
It’s hard not to like a story where everyone deserves to be the main character. (Humorous science fiction. 7-12)