Mars Evacuees by Sophia McDougall (HarperCollins, February 2015)
Alice Dare is going to Mars. She’s not entirely sure she wants to go (even if she does want to escape the Muckling Abbot School for Girls). Mars isn’t exactly human friendly just yet. It’s only partially safe for humans. Only some of the air is breathable. But the Emergency Earth Coalition has declared that Alice, along with a group of other kids, will be evacuated to Mars where they will live and be schooled by robot teachers and live in the relative safety of the planet away from the ongoing war.
Welcome to the future, where the aliens have invaded and are trying to take over. The humans are putting up a good fight, but things are not going as well as they would like. Alice’s mom is one of the star fighter pilots when it comes to battling the invaders– and that’s the reason Alice is part of the group heading to the red planet. All the other young teens and tweens that are a part of the trip come from different parts of the world–many from the families of the elite in the Coalition. Now this select group of young people are all going to have to live together and learn together on a new planet. And as you might expect isn’t long before things go wrong. The adults vanish. Chaos reigns. Alice and her friends are caught out on the Martian landscape trying to survive they might just have to find common ground with their long-time enemies in order to combat an even greater threat to the entire solar system.
Science fiction adventure that’s a wild ride of danger, daring and delight. We have Alice with her rather dry sense of humor and observation, quirky Josephine who just can’t help taking things apart, reckless Carl who loves to show off and his younger brother Noel whose intuitive compassion for other creatures comes in handy. Add to that an aggressively optimistic Goldfish teaching robot, two sets of aliens and a lot of surprises and it’s just the sort of bang-up read I love. I admit I’ve been waiting and waiting for this book since I learned it was being published in Britain last year. And I was not disappointed when I finally got my hands on a copy. Our characters are satisfyingly complex, and our main alien enemies are not so simple a “bad guy” to contemplate. No bug-eyed monsters here. The Morrors are another intricate race from out in the galaxy and their needs and goals are not simply broad villainy and destruction. And really, can you name me a book that discusses alien reproduction that involves more than a male/female binary and yet manages to keep it firmly middle grade?
Sophia McDougall pulls off a great story from the first-person perspective of Alice. The writing is strong and well balanced between description, explanation and dialog. The book never gets bogged down in long histories or reflective passages, preferring to keep readers moving with the characters through their adventure. It’s a great science fiction book to hand any reader who enjoys a good story–even if they haven’t read science fiction before. Beautifully accessible for middle grade readers, upbeat and ultimately positive in its resolution–this is the kind of science fiction I’ve been hoping to see more of for a long time.
Can’t wait to see what the author has in store next!
Expected Publication Date: February 2015
Recommended for grades 4 and up.