Mr. Universe

Orca. (Orca Soundings). Jan. 2021. 128p. pap. $10.95. ISBN 9781459826885.
Gr 7 Up–This hi-lo title follows Michael, a teenager who gets caught up in a science experiment gone wrong. Michael is visiting his mad-scientist uncle for the weekend when he accidentally gets transported to a parallel universe. He quickly meets and becomes enamored with Emily, a girl who also does not seem to belong in this universe. The two of them find themselves on the run from a team of mysterious “gray men” with lizard eyes and sharp teeth who claim to be restoring balance by erasing people in this universe. While the book has clear sci-fi themes, the plot does not get bogged down by the technical elements of alternate universes and takes a breezy and humorous approach to the topic. For example, the alternate universe features three-wheeled cars, and everyone’s phones are circular and from a tech company called “Orange.” Michael and Emily’s relationship veers into relatable teenage crush territory. The book is highly readable, with short chapters and text written at a third-grade reading level. A number of features designed for accessibility are also included, including dyslexia-friendly font and a larger trim size. Other than Michael’s dark hair, most characters’ appearances aren’t described.
VERDICT A fun, action-packed choice for striving middle and high school readers interested in science fiction.

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