Fairy-tale–telling Hale tackles straight-up science fiction in a tale seemingly tailor-made to forestall complaints about lovelorn teen heroines and all-white casts of characters.
Maisie Danger Brown (really), smart, home-schooled, one-handed half-Paraguayan daughter of scientists, has always dreamed of being an astronaut. When she sees an ad for a space camp competition from Bonnie Howell, the woman who built the world’s first (and only) space elevator, she can’t resist. And she wins! Space camp is electrifying, especially charming Wilder—Maisie knows it’s just hormones and an immature brain, but it feels good. Then Howell takes the strongest team (Maisie’s) plus Wilder on a ride into space, and the five teens end up infected by nanotechnology tokens of extraterrestrial origins. Whew! Cue a dark, superherolike tale: Friends die, adventures are had, kisses are exchanged, the Earth is saved. The tale is choppy at times and weak on worldbuilding, with surprisingly thin characterization—but girl power abounds, and the pages keep turning. The romance that Maisie resists and recognizes as mostly just a hormonal rush is endearing and happily doesn’t quite overshadow saving the world or her family, although it sometimes comes close.
A change of pace that largely succeeds, showing that Hale’s range is wider than her readers might have expected. (Science fiction. 12-16)