NORTH POINT by Steve  Spremo

NORTH POINT

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Adolescent siblings may be in a position to stop a ruthless mogul from taking Christmas away from Santa Claus in Spremo and Vlcek’s debut adventure tale.

Jenny and little brother Tommy lost their parents at a very young age. Specifics on what happened to Mom and Dad are vague, and the kids spend years bouncing from one guardian to the next. When they believe their latest move will separate them, Jenny and Tommy head north—way north—to see the grandfather they’ve never met in the Arctic. In the same region is Santa, who’s understandably worried. The icy foundation of the North Pole is melting faster than anticipated thanks to the world’s recent climate change. To relocate and protect all the elves, Santa will have to make a deal with Kritch, whose trillion-dollar Kritch Industries produces the bulk of the world’s toys. Kritch only wants Santa’s name, face, and likeness for advertising Kritch Toys. But the businessman owes his overwhelming success and wealth to a powerful crystal orb that he retrieved years ago from a South Pole cave. He may have his contract virtually locked in with Santa, but that doesn’t ease his tension when he learns that someone has swiped the orb. Said artifact somehow winds up in Grandpa’s hands, forcing the elderly man to go on the run with Jenny and Tommy when Kritch sends his minions after them. The sibs, who eventually get an inside look at the heavily fortified Kritch Toy Works facility, do whatever they can to keep the orb from the shady businessman.

Much of the charm here lies in portraying the magic of Christmas as something ordinary and routine, best exemplified by the character of Artie, a typical working elf. His biggest dilemma is personal. After overhearing a private meeting on the potential relocation, he inadvertently incites a panic when he tells everyone about it. In the same vein, details on the orb are scarce, and characters scramble to procure it rather than consider its supernatural capability. There is, in contrast, a wonderment with nature. Jenny and Tommy stand astonished by the multitude of stars in the Arctic and the desolation of its landscape: “All that remained was the sound of wind-blown snow. The snow glowed under the light of a single platform light.” Still, the authors inject a healthy dose of ironic humor. Countless parents and children, for example, line up to be the next Spokeskid, the new face of Kritch advertisements. But the role of Spokeskid may be more akin to captivity. Irony likewise surrounds holiday- or winter-related items: a sled is more practical than fun; candy canes entice kids into creepy Kritchland, which maps DNA, fingerprints, etc.; and self-dubbed Hot Chocolate Guy is Kritch’s go-to henchman. The story accommodates mystery (a shadowy figure suddenly appears to help someone) as well as action, including a high-speed snowmobile pursuit. Unanswered questions could indicate a forthcoming sequel, especially regarding the siblings’ parents.

An entertaining, unique spin on the popular holiday that caters to readers of all ages.

Page count: 317pp
Publisher: Manuscript
Program: Kirkus Indie
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