Friday, June 22, 2007

Yes, They Really Are Out to Get You

True Talents by David Lubar
4Q 4P, M J

The gorilla who clung to the ceiling was wearing a Princeton t-shirt.

I don't know about you, but that's the kind of first line that hooks me right into a book! As it turns out, there is no gorilla on the ceiling. And the walls aren't rippling, either. But when you've been drugged and you're just coming out of it, you see some mighty strange things.

The man who wakes Eddie (aka Trash) up wants to play a game with him. But this is no ordinary game. It has something to do with marbles, making those marbles float in the air or roll across a table. This man knows what Eddie has been trying to hide: his hidden talent, his ability to move things with his mind. How could he possibly know that? What is Eddie doing in this horrible place?

You may have met Trash before, in Lubar's Hidden Talents. Eddie was one of the delinquents sent to Edgewood School to straighten them up (or take them off their parent's hands). As far as most of the world is concerned, the kids at Edgewood are beyond hope. But Eddie's group weren't delinquents. They were misunderstood, even by themselves. Until Martin arrived, none of them knew they had hidden talents. Eddie can move things with his mind. Cheater can read minds. Flinch sees things a split second before they happen. When Torchie gets excited, things around him go up in flames. Lucky has a knack for finding things. And Martin somehow knows the thing a person is most proud of and what they are most ashamed of. They already know how much trouble these talents can get them into. How much trouble can they get them out of?

The boys have all left Edgewood now, but they've all tried to keep in touch. But they really miss Eddie. It's hard to accept that he died in that accident last year.

Wait a minute. Eddie is dead? Didn't we just see him drugged and locked up in that lab? We sure did. There's a good reason that the boys decided to keep their talents a secret. They were afraid that if anyone ever found out what they can do, they'd be studied, probed, and tested, and they'd have nothing to say about it. They were right. Months ago, Eddie made a possibly-fatal mistake. All he'd wanted was a little money to buy some art supplies. If he used his talent to help him get it, and he was really careful about it, nobody would ever find out. Right? Wrong. Two weeks later, he was attacked by two goons with a gun. If they hadn't already known what he could do, his efforts to get away would have blown his cover. He'd killed one of the men, using just the power of his mind. No matter how badly he's drugged, Eddie will never be able to forget the image of the blood pouring out of the man's mouth as he gasped for his last breath. Now he's paying for that in spades, locked up, drugged, and playing these games for the man he comes to know as Major Bowdler.

Major Bowdler is a piece of work. He's the kind of guy who likes to teach people lessons. Does a little kid run into his house, leaving his toy soldiers behind? Careless boy. If he's going to leave his toys out, should he get to keep them? Of course not. Does one of his men fail to do his job properly? Get rid of him. Permanently. As Eddie discovers, Major Bowdler is very, very interested in people like the boys, people who have special talents. As he sees it, these people should be happy to use their talents in service to their country (and make Bowdler very rich in the process). Whether or not the boys want to use their talents in this way is immaterial. What Bowdler wants, Bowdler gets.

Except...Eddie isn't about to roll over and play dead for Bowdler. When he gets the chance to escape, he grabs it. But what then? Where can he go? He has no money, and no way to contact anyone. And then, of course, there's the little matter of discovering that everyone thinks that he's dead. Who can he trust? There's only one answer for that. It's time to get the boys all together. And when these boys come together, they are a force that even a guy like Major Bowdler may not want to reckon with. Their hidden talents give them a boost in the first place, but when they are coupled with their true talents, watch out!

This is not my favorite of Lubar's books, but I think his fans will be glad he wrote it. I'm afraid this is a long, rambling review for a book that's just the opposite. The book reads very quickly most of the time, with more focus on action and suspense than in the first book. I found it a little confusing to follow the specifics of what Bowdler was up to, but I decided not to worry about it and just go with the flow. One of the things I enjoyed about the book was its mix of tension, action, and humor. Lubar has a great sense of humor, and that's what I always look forward to in his writing. In this book, I kept wanting to share the parts about Torchie serenading his neighbors with his accordion and his delight when they take up a collection to send him to music camp. (Anything to get him out of earshot!) And when a smart, cute older girl enters the mix and a little manly romantic rivalry results, well, that's fun too. This book will please younger teens who like to laugh as well as those who like action.

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