FICTION

The Unexplainable Disappearance of Mars Patel

Candlewick/Walker. Oct. 2020. 304p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781536209563.
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Gr 3-7–Strange things are afoot at H.G. Wells Middle School in the days leading up to the mandatory exam that determines entrance to the prestigious Pruitt Prep. First, sixth-grader Mars Patel’s friend Aurora disappears without a trace. Then Oliver Pruitt, the Steve Jobs–like inventor and founder of Pruitt Prep, announces on his podcast, “Something BIG is going to happen.” The next thing he knows, Mars is hiding in the janitor’s closet during a Code Red lockdown. Undeterred by his mother’s pleas that he behave and his principal’s threats of expulsion, Mars and his friends embark on a quest to find their missing friend and get to the bottom of the enigma that is Oliver Pruitt. Interweaving podcast transcripts, instant message threads, emails and newspaper stories, Chari deftly constructs a mystery that is strong in both plot and character. Mars’s friend group is as diverse as their unique abilities, and their teamwork and loyalty are unshakable.
VERDICT Based on the Peabody Award–winning podcast, fans of James Dashner’s The Maze Runner and Stranger Things will clamor for more of Mars Patel.

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