The territory of Quillan is in big trouble before Bobby Pendragon gets there. I never thought of a children's book (especially a fictional one) as being a good tool for teaching kids about buying locally and the dangers of international financial institutions and mulit-national corporations, but apparently J.D. MacHale did because he did it with this book. Quillan has sold it's national and territorial sovereignty to the Blok Corporation. They run everything including schools, health care, food, and drink. They even run these scary games where people bet their lives or the lives of their children just to get a little more food. Everyone is paid starvation wages and machinery is banned because it's cheaper to hire people. All artistic endeavors are banned because art makes people think. I realize this may (and is a little extreme) but if we let the Wal-Marts of the world keep expanding are we really going to end up any better off?
Anyway, Bobby gets seduced into playing this game and being the people's champion. He helps to inspire them to take back their lives and overthrow the Blok Corporation. But, of course, St. Dane had other plans. Back on Earth, Marc and Courtney are not batting 1,000, but I can't reveal too much or you'll know what's going on.
I like this book a lot. It's about hope and triumph in the face of adversity. I think it's a really brilliant teaching tool under the guise of a good book. The next time I'm required to teach teenagers about why we should not shop at places like Wal-mart even if we have to pay a little more and why you should try to eat local foods and not support bad labor practices I'm going to send them home with a copy of this book. It may be overdone as I said, but as Jonathan Lynn said in his commentary for My Cousin Vinny, "a good story is life with the boring parts removed." I think it might bring the point home to young people in ways any words I could utter won't do.
I rate this book an 8 overall and a 9 for it's teaching components. Once again, I say if I could write stories like this man, I could die happy. Read the book, show people in you life (especially young people), and buy it at a local bookstore.