In a departure from his previous book, The Incredible Space Raiders from Space (2015), King offers the story of an “eccentric thirteen-year-old social oddity” who desperately wants to be normal.
Exhausted by the excruciating nightly Routine that keeps him from sleep for hours and his daily efforts to conceal his obsession with numbers, Daniel Leigh believes he is crazy. Otherwise, Daniel is a typical eighth-grade white boy. He’s desperate to fit in, to make his father proud, and to win the affections of the most beautiful and popular girl in school, in this case Raya Singh. When Daniel (backup kicker and water boy) is plucked from the sidelines of the football field, he’s given a shot at making those dreams come true. Then something strange happens. Sara Melvern, who hasn’t spoken once in the eight years he’s known her, invites him to help her solve the mystery of her father’s disappearance, and Daniel realizes that sometimes dreams aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. Daniel’s narration is charming, funny, and occasionally heartbreaking, and a secondary cast of well-developed characters keeps the plot moving. Everything works, save for periodic excerpts of Daniel’s writing, which are more distracting than helpful.
Part coming-of-age, part mystery, and part middle-grade social-problem novel, Daniel’s story will resonate with a broad spectrum of readers. (Fiction. 8-13)