Beware the Deadzone

Excuses

First, let’s start with a few excuses, because who doesn’t love a good excuse? It was April of this year when last we talked about Team Killbot and their mysterious plane crash. For one, I am a very slow reader. I suppose that makes blogging about a reading a book a little more challenging. In May, we discussed Masterpiece by Elise Broach. After that… silence. Sorry about that! June, I have no excuse. I should have made better progress on Horizon: Deadzone, but I didn’t.

In the grander scheme, my wife and I have made the decision to move our family from Northern Illinois to Oklahoma City. I’m already scoping out my first pair of cowboy boots. I’ve also been practicing my very best “Y’all.” It’s a work in progress. Moving to OKC is a big change for our family. New state, new church, new friends, new job. That last one is what has occupied most of my attention for the last three months. I took a risk, back in the last weeks of June, and informed my employer that I would be moving out of state. They have graciously allowed me to continue working while I searched for my next job opportunity. So, the job hunt became my second job, occupying my time after work and on the weekends.

I am very blessed to say that I am now considering offers from three very reputable companies and hope to soon be reunited with my family who have been patiently waiting for me in OKC. I believe I may be only a few weeks away from making the final move. Hopefully then, things will calm down a bit and I will be able to focus on reading more consistently.


Deadzone

By Jennifer A. Nielsen

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Team Killbot is still traveling through the Rift, trying to look for the way out. Tragedy strikes again while they make their way across the “blood sand,” and things are looking dire. A strange messenger appears to them early one morning. Are they being helped or manipulated? Will they ever find their way home?


Initial Thoughts

Team Killbot is still stuck in the rift, fighting robots and unseen creatures that want to pull them into the ground. Sounds terrifying! Don’t worry though, the authors of the Horizon series have done a great job of making this mystery/sci-fi safe for young readers. Now that I have finished two of the books in this series, I would say that the series is aimed more at middle-grade readers than young adults. I say this because the story lacks a certain depth that I think is required for young adult readers. The characters in the story are definitely dealing with some real-life emotional issues that we’ll take a look at in a moment, but the story does not provide enough detail about the kid’s home-life to really cause the reader to stop and think about what the characters are going through or how their back story affects their thought processes and their approach to problem-solving or conflict.

I don’t say any of these things to discourage you from having your middle-grade reader enjoy this story. I would encourage you to have them read this series, especially if you are willing to read it along with them and discuss with them some of the more profound concepts that the authors don’t elaborate on.

Quotes and Other Thoughts

Molly has been chosen to be the leader of the group. She’s smart and thoughtful, but leadership is a difficult task in any circumstance, let alone in a strange place where everything seems to want to kill you and your team. Molly is careful to consider the consequences of her actions before giving instructions to her team, and only provides the information they need to stay focused on survival.

While all of Team Killbot is very smart, Anna seems to be the most intelligent. She is analytical, paying close attention to details, but that means she often comes across as cold and calculating. She is probably the most outspoken person in the group – she’s never afraid to offer her perspective on the teams’ circumstances.

Javi is our team’s comedian. We don’t know much about Javi except that he as a great family that loves and cares for him. At one point in the story, he suggests that Yoshi should come to stay with his family – that they would accept him with open arms.

Oliver is still a bit of an enigma to us. It seems that whoever or whatever created the Rift is looking for Oliver, but we know why this would be. The harsh circumstances the team is facing has helped Oliver, the youngest of the group, to grow up a bit. Although he still has a timid personality, he is beginning to come out of his shell, speaking up and offering his thoughts on what they should do to ensure their survival.

We haven’t gotten the opportunity to get to know Kira & Akiko either. Because they can only speak and understand Japanese and French, their communication with the rest of Team Killbot is limited body language, facial expressions, and verbal interpretation through Yoshi.

I would consider Yoshi to be the main character in this series. His character is developed more than any other character, which is saying something since this story is aimed at young readers and character development, has not been a high priority in this story. We know from the first book that Yoshi is on his way to live with his father in Japan and that his father has very high expectations of Yoshi. His father doesn’t hold back in expressing his disappointment in Yoshi. The author reveals to us in book two that Yoshi’s mother decided to send Yoshi to Japan because she feels that she has no control over him. This revelation has a profound impact on Yoshi. He already felt like he had no home. He felt too Japanese to relate to people in America and too American to be accepted in Japan. Realizing that his mother did not want him around anymore and knowing that he could never please his father, left Yoshi feeling alone and without a family.

Team Killbot’s reaction to Yoshi is probably the thing I appreciate the most about this book. The Killbot kids are a bright group, and they pick up on Yoshi’s feelings pretty quickly. Javi makes many attempts to get closer to Yoshi to befriend him. Yoshi seems suspicious of Javi’s intentions, but deep down, I think Yoshi appreciated the effort.

What you will find in this book

The kids undoubtedly have their ups and downs in this story, but you can certainly see them beginning to draw closer together as a result of their experiences.

I can confidently say that you will not find any objectionable content in this book. In fact, book two is mostly fluff designed to bridge the gap between book one and book three. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t read it. The Horizon series is currently planned to be a seven-book series (according to my search on Goodreads). There are four books available at the time of this writing, so I plan to continue reading through the series to find out if the kids find a way out of the Rift. I see also that books six and seven are slated to be written by Scott Westerfeld, who also wrote book one. I’m looking forward to seeing how he wraps up the story.

While this book doesn’t contain much content of any substance, it will still provide your child with excellent reading practice, and it contains just enough action and suspense that it should keep your young reader engaged and wanting to know more about what will happen to Team Killbot.

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