Kelvin Klosmo goes to the wacky Sci-Fi Junior High.
Kelvin has moved to a new intergalactic space station so that his genius parents can continue their important research. Kelvin is nervous about attending a new school. Everyone expects the product of two geniuses to be twice as smart, but Kelvin’s brains haven’t quite snapped into place just yet. The white human boy’s classmates are a diverse crew of extraterrestrial life forms amusingly brought to life in Martin’s comic panels. (The book’s intraspecies diversity is not as rich as what’s found in many other middle-grade sci-fi books, such as Stuart Gibbs’ Moon Base Alpha series.) The book unfurls per middle school drama formula: there’s an annoying principal, weird kids, and a pretty (nonhuman) girl, but absent is the character work that makes such James Patterson outings as Jacky Ha-Ha (with co-author Chris Grabenstein, 2016) or Middle School, the Worst Years of My Life (with co-author Chris Tibbetts, 2011) stand apart. This installment in Patterson’s empire does not have that magic. Kelvin, his family, and his friends seem to have little interior life, and a subplot involving a nefarious ne’er-do-well goes nowhere. Echoes of comic books, Star Wars, and 1950s sci-fi classics resound, but their influence is not enough to make the book come alive.
A cosmic misfire. (Science fiction. 8-10)