Under Pressure (B.E.S.T. World, 2)

Under Pressure (B.E.S.T. World, 2)
Age Range
Release Date
November 08, 2022
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In the second book of this inclusive near-future adventure trilogy, the kids from box #242 take a deep dive into a secret underwater world in hopes of finding their missing best friend and saving another from a life-altering bionic augmentation.
Told through the alternating perspectives of Leo (they/them) and Jayla (she/her), the boxmates from the B.E.S.T. Academy are lost at sea and their best friend, Grayson Bix, is missing. Their hoverpod is busted, their stomachs are empty, and their hopes are crushed. When a mysterious vessel approaches, Ace, Leo, and Jayla are certain they'll be carted back to the Tower of Power, with their punishments for escaping awaiting. But a twist: The crew is rescued and introduced to a vibrant and thriving underwater world that is off the grid and out of Bixonics's eye...and one step closer to finding Grayson.

From the depths of the Pacific Ocean to the heights of the stratosphere, hijinks, adventure, and emotional challenges ensue as the gritty kids meet a whole new cast of characters, weigh out the costs of life-changing bionic enhancements, and blow the top off of an earth-shattering secret that has global implications.

In book two of this action-packed near-future adventure, Cory McCarthy crafts an incredible world with high-stakes storytelling, magnetic characters, and thematic undercurrents that spotlight the complexities of family and friendship, self-empowerment, and the magnitude of truth.

Editor review

1 review
Body Augs and Undersea Hideouts!
Overall rating
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Grayson, Leo, Jayla and Ace all meet at school in the B.E.S.T. program in Ace Takes Flight. There's even more intrigue now! Grayson wakes up with a new body aug (body augmentation-- the augmentations are widespread but somewhat contentious technology) but he's at the bottom of the ocean. The other three are adrift in the sea with their hoverpod inoperable. Jayla is picked up by her family, who still want to control all of her actions, and Leo and Ace are picked up by Stern and Rosa. They are taken to Atlantis, which appears to be a stronghold of the Resistance. They think that Jayla's family has her hidden somewhere and try to find her, which they eventually do. Leo, who is in a wheelchair, is interested in the Sherlock mind aug, but there is a mystery surrounding it tied to Bixonics and to Grayson Bix. The three head back to the Tower of Power (their school) and need to chose an aug track. They are told that the Sherlock aug has been discontinued because no onw qualified for it, but Coach Vaughn tells Leo they (Leo uses they/them pronouns. All students at the school have their pronouns listed and use them regularly.)can try for the aug if he can teach Ace to fly. Eventually, the friends are tracked about ready for augs, but can they save Bixonics and humanity? This is a purported trilogy, so we'll have to wait for book three.
Good Points
This reminded me a bit of the Voyagers series that starts with Project Alpha and is written by a variety of middle grade authors, with a dash of the undersea adventure and Atlantis connections of Riordan's Daughter of the Deep. There's a threat from an amorphous source that the kids must figure out and hunt down, difficulties they must overcome, and places to which they must travel.

The different augmentations are fascinating, and of course there have to be some problems with them. But really, who wouldn't want super vision or intelligence? The characters are diverse and well developed, and have a good working relationship, even if they are occasionally at odds. There's just the right level of conflict to keep the characters motivated and moving forward.

The school and the augmentation track decisions will resonate with readers who like "academy" books. The older the teachers are, the more suspect they seem; Rose and Stern are teens, so Leo and Ace trust them a bit more. The covers of both of the books are great.

Readers who enjoyed Kraatz's Space Runners: The Moon Platoon, Fry's Jupiter Pirates, Landers' Blastaway or Levy's Seventh Grade vs. the Galaxy series will enjoy B.E.S.T. World. This is also a great choice for undersea adventure fans, who liked O'Hearn's Atlantis, Lerangis' The Colossus Rises, or Jason Henderson's absolutely fabulous Young Captain Nemo.
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