The Hunger Games meets The Amazing Race.
When a mysterious blue box arrives for Tella, a small audio device invites her to compete in the Brimstone Bleed. She has less than 48 hours to report to the competition, select a Pandora companion and enter in a three-month race across four separate ecosystems—first to the finish line gets a cure for any illness. Tella seizes the chance to save her deathly ill brother’s life and is tossed into a ruthless survivalist competition. While the overall worldbuilding is light, the more immediate competition settings are ably exploited for dangers. The Pandoras are eggs that hatch genetically engineered, superpowered animals—not terribly realistic but so much fun that nobody will care. Everyone has a loved one to save so stakes are high, but survival necessitates teaming up, yielding hilarious dialogue. Of course, one of Tella’s teammates is a handsome, broody, uber-competent love interest. The female supporting characters are less stock. Tella herself is awkward, doofy and self-consciously superficial—the combination makes her easy to root for. It’s hard to believe how trusting and accepting Tella is regarding the lack of information about the race—aside from the occasional small hints, most background comes in a large expository passage late in the novel that will leave readers excited for the next installment.
Great for readers needing a fix in between Hunger Games movie releases. (Science fiction. 12 & up)