Monday, February 8, 2021

MMGM: Jinxed, by Amy McCullough

 This middle-grade sci-fi adventure has it all:

  • cute talking animal side-kicks ...
  • that are also robots with internet access and hologram projectors and all the cool things your phone could do if it was actually a cute talking animal (don't we all wish our phones could be cute talking animal robots?) ...
  • and they have to fight in robot battles at the tech school where really smart kids learn how to make robot animals, but all that fun violent mayhem is okay because ...
  • the main character is really good at repairing them and making them even better than before ...
  • which is how she gets her mysteriously different robot cat, Jinx, who seems to be able to think for himself (and has the snarkiness to show it!)
The robot sidekicks are called bakus. The clever-with-technology protagonist is Lacey Chu (so you've got your girls in STEM and a pretty diverse cast, so check off some more boxes), and there's a mystery about her absent father, and some questions about the big tech company that makes the bakus and runs the school (all big tech companies have a nefarious plan to take over the world; that's a given!). Plus some exploration of class and elitism and what it feels like to be less rich, less connected, less privileged. And the whole artificial intelligence—free will problem that can't help but come up when dealing with self-aware robots. 

There's lots going on here, and it's fast-paced and exciting while taking time to develop characters and give justice to the themes. None of the elements are original, but Lacey and Jinx, and the team at school, and Lacey's best friend (who didn't get into the special school) make this a fresh, compelling romp through some of the more significant questions kids these days are facing.

I thoroughly enjoyed it and am about to dive into the sequel, Unleashed.

Oh, hey, this is a middle-grade book, so I can contribute to Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday! Haven't joined that group in a long while. Greg at Always in the Middle is still hosting this great weekly round-up of favourite middle-grade books—be sure to check it out.


  1. This sounds like a story kids would love, especially with the robot battles. Glad you enjoyed it so much.

  2. I absolutely want a baku! It would be a little yorkipoo baku, and they would let me bring it to work. I liked the sequel as well, and both have been checked out a lot!

  3. I've had this one on my to read list for years. Your review has pushed it to the top and I hope to give it a go in the next few months. I mean it this time! Thanks for the review.

  4. I can't believe I haven't read this book. My great granddaughter would enjoy this! Glad to know there is a sequel! Thanks for sharing!

  5. This sounds like a super-fun book—I'm surprised I haven't seen it before! It's neat that it combines fun robot stuff (everyone's favorite) with some intriguing depth (I'm curious about its thoughts on robots having free will). Your mention of cute robots made me think of this robot they built about 10 years ago that I don't think they ever actually sold, called PaPeRo—it's adorable! Thanks for the great review, and welcome back to MMGM!

  6. Ooh! This sounds really intriguing. I think MG'ers would love the artificial intelligence and the animal phone bits. I'm sure both my son and my niece would love this--and me too. :)

  7. This sounds interesting. Thanks for putting it on my radar! :)

  8. I don't read scifi, but I know some kids this would appeal to. Thanks for the post.