Futureland: Battle for the Park

Random. Nov. 2022. 320p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780593479421.
Gr 4-8–Welcome to Futureland, the most innovative theme park in the year 2048. Traveling in the air, it offers visitors a one-of-a-kind VR experience where they can live out their biggest dreams. For seventh-grader Cameron Walker, who is Black, it’s just his daily life: his parents created Futureland. Now, though, the park has stopped over Atlanta, and things start to go awry at the park. The revs—highly realistic, AI park characters—are taking on troubling traits; Cameron’s parents are acting very strange; children are disappearing. In order to save Atlanta and the park, Cameron’s going to have to use his best sleuthing skills to solve a mystery much more dangerous than he imagined. Readers will be bursting to visit every “destiny” in this fictional theme park, and the fast-paced plot will keep them reading. More than that, though, it’s the characters and messaging that will stick with tweens. Featuring a cast that’s made up almost entirely of people of color, the book speaks to social justice issues in middle grade–friendly ways. There are a few moments in the story where readers may stumble over a character’s motive, but not enough to slow them down. Dynamic comic spreads by Khatib are sprinkled throughout the story, occasionally in places that feel abrupt, but overall they add to the moving plot.
VERDICT An exciting new series that will grab readers with its futuristic setting, diverse characters, and brisk plotting.

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