BOOKS
Trailblazer
352p. HarperCollins/Harper. Jan. 2019. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062741035.
COPY ISBN
Gr 4–7—Twelve-year-old Mace dreams of TURBO racing professionally, a sport where competitors drive crafts that transform between a roadster, a jet plane, and a submarine. When Mace sneaks from his house to the airport to visit one of the first TURBO crafts, Event Horizon, he can't resist climbing in. From there Mace is trapped inside and instructed to fly to Denver, where he's offered the chance to compete against three other kids for a spot in the Gauntlet Prix, where the winner will race on behalf of the long-lost TURBO legend, Qasar. When Mace meets his three competitors, Aya, Henryk, and Dex, they learn that Qasar is actually Tempest Hollande, owner of the TURBO sim company, Hollande Industries. Mace is eliminated from Tempest's competition, but realizes that Tempest is in favor of cheating and will risk the lives of her pupils to have fame and fortune. With the help of his family and friends, Mace is determined to win the Gauntlet Prix and show the world Tempest's true character. The plot sets a pace so quick that readers will speed through it, with twists and turns as intense as those on a racetrack. Aslan nicely incorporates diversity throughout, with characters from different cultural backgrounds, and, although it's not a major focus of the plot, Mace's parents are deaf, and the novel explains the difference between "small-d deaf" and "big-D Deaf." Some of the character development and arcs are a bit too pat: Mace acknowledges his misgivings in clichéd terms, his family unquestioningly teams up with him, his school enemy becomes a genuine friend, and rude Henryk apologizes for his behavior. Additionally, the rhyming of Mace and race can be a bit grating.
VERDICT A good fit for large middle grade collections, particularly where books about racing are in high demand.

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