The Unexplainable Disappearance of Mars Patel by Sheela Chari. Walker Books, 2020. 9781536209563
Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 3
Genre: Science fiction
What did you like about the book? Sixth grader Mars Patel is in awe of the tech billionaire Oliver Pruitt. He and all of his classmates at H.G. Wells Middle School hope to pass the test to be admitted to the prestigious Pruitt Prep. When kids start going missing, beginning with Mars’s good friend Aurora, he and his friends begin to suspect Pruitt is behind it. They sneak over to Gale Island to try and investigate where Pruitt Prep is located, and they find … there’s no school there!
This fast paced thriller has going for it a multifaceted story line, with interwoven text messaging, podcast snippets, and emails. Mars’s group of friends has diverse talents: Caddie can read minds; JP, who is non-binary, is super strong; Toothpick is super smart. Mars is the one with big plans and ideas. Their friendship weathers all the storms that middle school hurls at the group. There are cool technological gadgets, like holograms and drones. And there’s the mystery of where Aurora, then Jonas, have gone. When Mars himself disappears, he has answers but also a huge question: how will he escape?
Anything you didn’t like about it? Unfortunately, the book just doesn’t deliver enough meat on the bone. The idea is a good one, but, apart from Mars, none of the characters has any depth. Things keep happening, but there is no explanation as to why. The story is based on a podcast of the same name – maybe there are more details there.
To whom would you recommend this book? For fans of middle grade sci-fi thrillers like James Dashner’s Maze Runner.
Who should buy this book? Elementary and middle school and public libraries
Where would you shelve it ? Fiction
Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No
Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City and State: Stephanie Tournas, Robbins Library, Arlington, MA
Date of review: February 15, 2021