Thursday, June 23, 2022

Review: Mouse by N. Scott Stedman

 Today's read was a surprise in so far that I wasn't expecting it to be as good as it is. Yep, this one is going onto my Favorite for 2022 list (that list has been growing lately, hasn't it?). I wasn't sure whether to mark this one as science fiction, mystery, or a thriller because it adds everything to the mix. But let's just get on with it before I babble out my entire review right here.

by N. Scott Stedman
River Grove Books
Tween Science Fiction / Mystery 
302 pages
ages 12 and up

“There aren’t many coders like that, not that I’ve ever met. You just might find that the mouse is really a lion, and even worse, that the lion has your head in her mouth.”

TWELVE-YEAR-OLD MOUSE GAMMA has spent her entire life struggling to communicate. She’s never understood how to stop the bullies and negligent foster parents without causing more trouble than it’s worth. That is until she discovers the magic of code—a language that’s more powerful than anything she’s ever imagined.

To everyone’s surprise, Mouse is anonymously chosen to attend the prestigious Rickum Academy—an incubator for the brightest and most promising young minds in tech. Her excitement is short-lived as the mystery of how she ended up at Rickum very quickly unravels around her, threatening the safety of her new life and the innocent lives of those around her. With the help of her new friends, Ada and Boone, Mouse is in a race against her classmates, her teachers, and the most powerful man in tech to not only uncover the truth about who she is, but who she is not.



Get ready for a high-speed dive into the world of high-tech, coding, and hackers as this novel holds tension high, weaves in mystery, and places a genius girl right in the middle.

Mouse has bounced from one foster home to the next since she was born and can never figure out how she always catches the blame. Using her talents to search up information about her birth parents, she's caught hacking into one of the biggest corporation's systems, but instead of heading right back to juvie, she's enrolled in an elite, wealthy school for coders and everything high-tech. But she's not the only one confused at her odd luck, especially since a much-feared hacker has just escaped prison and is rumored to bring about a type of end of the world. Suspected to be a pawn in the villain's game, some have their eyes on her, but that's not her biggest problem. As fellow students are attacked and suspicions rise, Mouse needs to figure out who she is and who she wants to be.

This novel caught me by surprise. Not only did it hold the tension and high-tech mystery the blurb promises, but it does it in a very-well woven fashion. Mouse might seem as a bit cliche, an orphan wanting to know more about her birth parents and struggling to get through life, but she's so much more. Her talents in coding make her a genius, and yet, that's the only place she feels comfortable. Otherwise, she comes across as a little, lost 'mouse', not nearly as evil as those around her want to paint her and actually as normal as any other kid. While she's harsh to others, this quickly melts away as friendships build. It creates a wonderful character arc, which is understandable and easy to identify with.

The high-tech is simply neat. It was a treat to get lost in the world, where there's quite a bit of reality topped off with a frosting of fantasy. The two blur in a delightful way, making an intriguing world. The details are well laid and given just enough foundation to make them come to life without growing boring. The plot is very well woven, keeping the pacing high with enough mystery to make it hard to put down. There are always surprises, and even sub-plots create an engaging mix. The only thing I can criticize a tiny bit is some of the character reactions/interactions, but these teeny jolts were far and few between. 

This is one of the more original and exciting reads I've picked up this year, and I can recommend it not only to upper middle graders (ages 10 and up) but to teens and even some adults.

No comments: