Sunday, June 9, 2019

Review: Bad Order by Barb Bentler Ullman

by B. B. Ullman
Sterling Children's Publishers
June 4th, 2019
Middle Grade Science Fiction
244 pages

A middle grade story about a sister and her special little brother fighting to save the world from an interdimensional catastrophe.

Mary Day’s life has always been different, because her little brother, Albie, is different. He doesn’t speak, but he can communicate with Mary via mental telepathy, sending her—and her alone—“mind memos.” To Albie, Mary is Pearl, the person he holds most precious. Then, one snowy day, Albie transmits an alarming two-word message: Bad order. Soon after, Mary and her best friend, Brit, discover a mysterious red mist in the woods that seems to draw them in . . . and turn all their feelings negative. A visit from three extraterrestrials (hilariously trying to pass as human) reveals the truth: there’s a disastrous leak in the dimensional universe—and if Albie can’t repair it, angry, evil thoughts will overtake the entire population. Can Mary, Brit, Brit’s brother Lars, and Albie save the world? And will Mary finally realize that she, like Albie, has something special inside herself?


First off, my son gives this one an extra huge, double thumbs up for the cover. He claims all books should be that dramatic. That said, this was an original science fiction tale, which weaved around some fun interdimensional-ness, great friendships and a bit of self-discovery.

Mary, or as her brother Albie sees her as Pearl, is an almost teen who loves her little brother, has a best friend and, in general, is good with life as she knows it. She has a special relationship with Albie. But then, he himself is a little special. Shortly after his birth, he has communicated only through thoughts and only with her. He sees the world differently, and it's because of this that they discover a red haze which just isn't right. Not only that, but Albie slips the words 'Bad order' every now and then into his thoughts to her...not that he explains what it means. He claims he needs to figure things out first, but she has a feeling he might not be telling her everything. When strange things start happening and even stranger men appear, things take an adventurous and dangerous turn.

Mary, her best friend and her later friends come across as very natural kids. Their decisions, actions and conversations flow well and fit nicely to the age group. Even their concerns slide right along into areas readers will recognize and be familiar with. The friends work well together. They aren't always perfect, but it's these differences and how they work them out which make them fun to root for. Albie is different, but his originality gives a nice contrast to the rest of the friends, especially when the plot starts thickening.

The author has done a nice job at weaving normality and the science fiction aspects together to keep readers in a somewhat familiar world while allowing the more fantastical elements to take flight. This is one scifi fans are sure to adore.

The tale grabs from the first page as Albie starts the book. However, he soon slides back as Mary takes over the story. His thoughts, especially in the beginning chapters, only fall in every now and then, and it would have been nice to hear more from him. The plot thickens, sometimes faster and sometimes slower, but something is always happening. The author allows the reader to get to know Mary and her friend a bit before really letting the action set in. It's especially fun to see how the other characters fall into place and make for a great group of kids.

No comments: