Ryan and Taylor McKenzie arent just brother and sister; theyre twins. Yet they couldn’t be more different from each other. Taylor is top of their middle school class, a teachers pet, hardworking and organized and ambitious…heck, shes Hermione Granger with an American accent. Ryan, on the other hand, sports a ponytail and doesn’t do much besides hang around at the park with a skateboard and some goofball friends. He gets bad grades, gets in trouble at school, gets yelled at by Dad on a daily basis. Its hard to believe theyre related.
Nevertheless, Taylor cares about her brother. So she worries about him when he claims to have seen a spaceship explode above the park near their house. She tries to keep him out of trouble for being late for school, by helping him search for the debris the next morning. When Ryan does find alien artifacts when the little silvery disks turn out to be a form of alien entertainment based on heroes and legends of the human race when Ryan discovers how to activate the disks, so that each hero takes over his mind and body for a few minutes or hours when the disks become an addiction, when Ryan becomes the prime target of the worst bully in town, and when his discipline problems lead her parents to contemplate drastic measures why, protecting Ryan, especially from himself, becomes Taylors full time job.
The author of Hidden Talents has accomplished a rare trick in this book. On the one hand, he has created a deeply human, deeply real cast of characters. You cant help sharing Ryans despair when it comes to doing anything that will satisfy his demanding parents. You feel Taylors anguish and desperation as she risks everything her academic accomplishments, her friends, even her sanity to protect Ryan. You even sympathize, for a moment or two, with their disappointed parents, frustrated teachers, and perhaps the bully Billy Snooks. The result is a suspenseful, thrilling tale that engages your heart as well as your imagination.
On the other hand, the sci-fi aspect of the story is so loopy the misadventures caused by the alien disks are so hysterically funny and Ryans endearingly goofy best friend, Ellis, injects such a steady stream of irreverent and self-deprecating humor into the story that in all likelihood, the only tears you will shed while reading this book are tears of laughter. Breathless, side-splitting, I-had-to-read-that-bit-again-and-then-I-laughed-even-harder laughter.
Defying all natural laws, David Lubar has managed to merge these two vastly different elements the touching melodrama with the screamingly funny, far-out fantasy into one coherent, convincing tale. How is this possible? It must have been the alien influence…