My relationship with this book is long and sordid. Reading through the advance copy was not the first time I’ve read the story of orphan Max Quick, his lost memory and the day time stopped.

Or, well, technically it was the first time I’d read it.

Max Quick – The Pocket and the Pendant was, originally, a self-published book. And, after a set of events that I won’t go into here, it was also a podcast. Or a podiobook. Which is how I first discovered it, two years ago.

Max Quick is a middle grade book, a little younger target than what we usually review, but it is still very awesome. It is the story of a young, orphan boy, who doesn’t remember anything beyond a few years ago, and who lives in a terrible home for boys. It is about him discovering friendship and loyalty and courage.

I almost don’t even know what to say about the plot. Especially since I have the original all mixed up in my head with the soon-to-be published version. I love that it’s an intelligent, sci-fi adventure for boys that doesn’t treat children like idiots. It tackles physics, and ethics, and courage, and friendship.

The plot for both versions is the same. Time stops. Oceans freeze. Planes hang in the sky. And people everywhere pause for an eternity. Except for a few children who are left parent-less and free in a world without rules. Max, the aforementioned orphan, is one of the children not frozen. He soon meets up with Casey, a young girl who’s a bit of an outcast, and Ian, who’s a bit of a geek. After some awesome adventures and discovery of cool things in the time-stopped world (picture mist, frozen in time, and children fighting in it. It’s awesome.) they come to the realization that, as far as they know, no one is trying to stop the time-stop. No one is helping them. And if they want the world back the way it’s supposed to be, they’ll have to take matters into their own hands.

There is so much I love about this book, it’s difficult to know where to start. I love the characters and the dynamics of the group. I love the twists and turns the plot takes. I love the action and the science and the history. At the end of the book, you feel as if you’ve been entertained, and also as if you’ve learned something. I love the potential this book has to get children, and adults, excited about both reading and science. Those two things don’t usually go together.

I appreciated that the real journey for the kids begins because they decide it needs to happen. No one is forcing them to do anything. They could have holed up in some out of the way location discovering all the weird things that happened as a result of the time-stop, but they decided that they were the ones equipped to deal with these extraordinary events. Again, the emphasis on free will is not something seen that often in middle grade books.

Mark Jeffrey is really good at making things feel seamless. Like bringing together science fiction (aliens!) with creation myth and theories of the human consciousness. Or, on a  smaller level, there’s a really great scene where Max first comes into contact with a character who can provide answers for him. But you know it’s at a time in the story where the author wouldn’t want to reveal too much to the audience, and then there’s a good plot reason that Max cannot get the answers. It doesn’t feel forced or as if they are being withheld on purpose. It really just didn’t make sense for the answers to be divulged at that moment.

There were a couple things from the original that I missed, and one name was changed and I didn’t really like that at all. But then, there were a lot of things that I thought were better this time around, so I guess it was an even trade off.

The book comes out April 26th (according to Goodreads) from HarperCollins. I highly suggest you pick up a copy. It’s a lot of fun, and has that great type of ending, where everything is wrapped up and you feel complete with the story, yet desperate for more. The best way to leave a book.

Also, if I don’t get book 3 soon, I might just implode.

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