The Unexplainable Disappearance of Mars Patel
Mars Patel’s friend Aurora has disappeared! His teachers are clueless. His mom is stressed out about her jobs. But Mars refuses to give up—after all, his own dad disappeared when Mars was a toddler, before he and Ma moved to Puget Sound from India. Luckily, Mars has a group of loyal friends eager to help—smart Toothpick, strong and stylish JP, and maybe-telepathic Caddie. The clues seem to point toward eccentric tech genius (and Mars’s hero) Oliver Pruitt, whose popular podcast now seems to be commenting on their quest! But when the friends investigate Pruitt’s mysterious, elite school, nothing is as it seems—and anyone could be deceiving them. Slick science, corporate conspiracies, and an endearingly nerdy protagonist make this first book in the series a fresh, exciting sci-fi adventure.
The characters are all a little prickly, which made it a bit hard to connect to them, but this is not unusual with bright middle school students. There are characters like Epica, who wears a school blazer even though there isn't a school uniform, and Toothpick, who is so concerned about the GIFT test that he memorizes the back of three cereal boxes in case the test included pop culture. While the characters are all a bit misfit, they work well together and support each other.
There are a lot of books where students go missing, and the focus of these books is usually the sadness the remaining characters feel. This turns the tables and involves the students directly in the efforts to locate the missing girl. Of course, it doesn't hurt that their school is a bit odd, and has Code Red Protocols and holograms at assemblies.
Readers who enjoy drones, armored, hybridized tardigrades, and evil billionaires with diabolical intentions will want to pick up this series (The Interplanetary Expedition of Mars Patel comes out in October of 2021) as well as listen to the podcast.