Ace Takes Flight

Clarion. (B.E.S.T. World: Bk. 1). Nov. 2021. 256p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780358265078.
Gr 4-6–It’s 2048, and Ace Wells’s birthday. He’s 11, which means his two moms, Mom and Mama Jay, are sending him off for two years at the Tower of Power, the skyscraper campus of the B.E.S.T. Program, Biological Enhancement Systems Technology. There, he’ll train and study and be screened for a biological augmentation, or aug. The program was started decades earlier by Dr. Lance Bix, a secretive scientific pioneer who now runs it holographically from his home in Switzerland. Ace struggles to get outside the shadow of superstar older brother Finn, the first B.E.S.T. graduate to master the TurboLegs aug, which allows him to run at extreme speeds. Bedeviled by his own impetuousness and social awkwardness, Ace fears he’ll never get on track for SuperSoar, the flight aug he’s dreamed about for years. But when Bix’s son, Ace’s friend Grayson, suddenly disappears and a resistance movement surfaces that may implicate the moms of Gray and Jayla, another of Ace’s suitemates, everybody’s motivation shifts. Characters represent a diverse range of identities, and the portrayals are presented organically within the story. Dr. Bix and Gray, as well as Jayla, are Black. Friend Leo is in a wheelchair from leg surgery for a genetic anomaly and uses they pronouns. Teacher and staff name badges indicate preferred pronouns. The story ends with a number of plots in cliffhangers, setting up a possible sequel.
VERDICT Fun, fast-paced, and also exploring a refreshingly complex emotional understory, this book is recommended for all libraries serving middle graders.

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