I am a big fan of last year’s Saving Lucas Biggs, so I was excited to read the next novel by this duo. They have kept the same thoughtful and lush character development along with a fine and evocative sense of place. However, this time I found the plot less credible, or maybe, with the previous novel, I was just more prepared to put my quibbles aside.
7th graders Audrey and Aaron both have uncommon abilities: Audrey knows whenever someone is lying and Aaron can remember everything he’s ever read, heard or seen. After they both become embroiled in social drama because of their abilities, their respective parents decide to send them on a 6-week outdoor camp in Texas, along with 14 other kids and led by an ex-college football player, Jare.
Narrated by Audrey and Aaron in turn, the initial days on the camp as they hike and have team challenges are well-written, though definitely feel like they’re not breaking new ground. With the help of two other exceptional kids – Louis has hyper senses and Katie is extraordinarily empathetic – Audrey and Aaron begin to realize that their “unsuperpowers” are also a gift, as well as a burden as they start to see the point of view of others.
Middle grade is the perfect age for this theme: the kids get a glimmering of the thought they are only a tiny part of the world and that it’s not all about them; they need to learn to walk “in other people’s shoes.”. Audrey starts to understand that lies are told for different reasons, not necessarily because people just don’t want to tell the truth. Aaron learns that regurgitating pages from an encyclopedia is not the same as thinking about what someone actually wants to know.
This would have been enough for a fine, if quiet novel, but the authors decided to introduce some drama, which I can understand if not really agree with. There are two malicious kids, who are pretty one-dimensional, even when our kids use their abilities to divine the reasons behind their meanness. And when one of them goes missing and the kids think Jare has killed her, the whole shebang becomes highly implausible.
Nonetheless I think middle graders who enjoy realistic fiction with a touch of fantasy and adventure will connect with the “Fearless Four” and enjoy the ride.
Thanks to Harper and Edelweiss for the digital review copy.