Sourcebooks. (Jinxed: Bk. 1). Jan. 2020. 336p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781492683742.
Gr 3-7–Lacey Chu has been working her whole life toward being accepted to the elite Profectus Academy, a junior division of MonchaCorp, makers of the ubiquitous “baku” (part smartphone, part robotic pet). Admittance to the school comes with financial support, prestige, a guaranteed school-to-corporation pipeline job, and a top-level baku. Unfortunately, despite her expert fabrication skills, Lacey is rejected from Profectus, or is she? When she fixes a broken and abandoned baku, she finds herself on the fast track after all. Jinx, her found cat baku, is more than he seems. Unlike other bakus, he can think and act for himself, and he can connect deeply with his human partners. With Jinx at her side, Lacey quickly becomes embroiled in the school’s Baku Battle culture (a science fair meets the “Hunger Games”) and in the dangerous dark side of MonchaCorp. Marketed as the “Golden Compass for the digital age,” this title doesn’t have much in common with the “His Dark Materials” series beyond the animal companions—it’s an exposition-heavy ode to capitalism that leans heavily on common tropes (a mysteriously missing parent, a broke kid at a fancy prep school, a school obsessed with gratuitous battle culture, a well-connected nemesis, and a cute older boy). An unquestioned admiration for start-up culture and tech monopolies is woven into the book’s themes, although the evils of corporate competition are also addressed. But for all that it is an enjoyable read with just enough genuine friendship and suspense to draw readers in. The novel ends on a predictable cliffhanger, opening the door to sequels.
VERDICT A thin but fun read.

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