From School Library Journal
Grade 5-8–In the midst of a near-future energy crisis gripping Great Britain, three teenagers set out on a journey. Danny, 15, has limited abilities and no future in the sheltered world he shares with his father and stepmother. His mother, Maggie, left him with money and the promise to show him what he really is, so he convinces his 13-year-old stepbrother, Christie, to help him find out. The boys head north into the Scottish winter, after picking up Tina, a homeless girl; Oggy, a talking dog; and Darling, the talking starling that has followed them from home. Unbeknownst to the kids, Oggy and Darling have been sent to escort them to Fourth World, Maggie's farm, lab, and experimental community, but it is their own courage, determination, and drive that get them there. The first part of the book follows their travels, and the last third brings the characters and readers back to the subject of Maggie's genetic experiments and their results, and the purpose of Fourth World. Christie's narrative voice seems far too sophisticated for his age–his reflections on the energy crisis, on Tina's psyche as a homeless child, and on the rights and wrongs of his parents' and Maggie's actions seem beyond most 13-year-olds. However, they add to the character development and atmosphere, giving this book more heft than the average plot-driven series opener. The story is compelling and the questions left open at the end are intriguing enough to lead readers who make it through the long journey into the promised sequel.–Susan L. Rogers, Chestnut Hill Academy, PA
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Gr. 5-8. Thirteen-year-old Christie has become irreversibly entangled in his developmentally disabled stepbrother's half-cocked plan to reunite with his scientist mother, Maggie. The contemporary setting, combined with Christie's ambivalence about his "shambling, top-heavy freak" of a stepbrother and frank resentment toward his newly blended family, seems to anticipate a story rooted in reality. Assumptions are shattered, however, when a talking starling arrives to escort the boys from Ireland to Maggie's lab in Scotland. The travelers are soon joined by another talking animal and by a homeless girl, whose acerbic personality adds vibrancy to Christie's somewhat drab first-person narrative. Too much of the novel deals with the drudgery of the journey. But the pace accelerates once the travelers arrive at Fourth World, Maggie's remote compound, where Christie, though charmed by the menagerie of chatty critters, grows increasingly suspicious about the underground laboratory. Slow beginning aside, the novel's agreeable Doctor Doolittle dimension and shocking conclusion will reap a sizable audience for the next installment of the Missing Link trilogy. Jennifer MattsonCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved