Top critical review
Great potential, but story elements keep me from putting into my Christian school library
Reviewed in the United States on October 29, 2018
I am sad. I purchased the entire series for possible addition to my Christian School elementary library, because the ratings seemed so high. They will be returned. I had hopes because the concept would be so appealing to my pre-teen boys and girls who love Superhero books, but who struggle with self-image and finding themselves. I love his writing style for these kids. He doesn't 'dumb down' some fantastic vocabulary. The presence of family and displays of tolerance for diversity, as well as the concept of good over evil, seemed initially solid. But then there were scenes that negated my inclusion of these books in our setting. A sixth grade boy lands in a simulation placing him in a saloon with an adult female at the bar. He drinks a Shirley Temple but there is beer served by a bartender to her and others around an under-aged kid trying to act like an adult in an illegal environment. The word 'freakin' to substitute for the f-word exists frequently, and we try to get our students to enhance expression, not to bite into cultural slang that some find offensive. I love that the boy ends up a hero and doesn't realize his powers initially. I love that the books ends with some self-reflection and realizations about his uniqueness. But frequently in the stories, however, he is disobeying his parents (including taking vehicles) with choices that result in his placement in danger where he overcomes successfully as the 'hero'. This sends a mixed message. Het gets grounded, a dumb consequence overused in today's culture that is ineffectual, even in this book. It doesn't stop him. There is a cruel death in front of him of his best friend and there are references to Russian-accented people as evil comrades ordered to kill him. We have a high population of Russian students. The second book actually places his mother and sister as evil twins in a parallel universe out to harm him. He gets confused over their sincere identities and trust. An Orb that enters his spirit pushes him to dangerous choices and becomes a threat to his life and others' lives as others try to steal its universal power to control. He becomes responsible for the life and death of all of creation. Whether this Orb is good or evil is in question. Entities are referred to as God, perhaps more powerful. "Chaos and Order" are considered both evil as they play a game to destroy people. Simply put...this story could have been just as exciting without these insertions to make it possible for me to include in our school setting. A little tweaking could have gone a long way. I wish R.L. Ullman could have asked someone like me to review his publication ahead of time to make this story worthy of diverse populations at this age, including the conservatives. It would not have harmed the tales one bit to be more careful and selective about approaches. We have fantasies and good-over-evil thrillers and science fiction, of course, and discuss tough fiction books with hard lessons from a Biblical Worldview. We do not coddle our kids. But these books cross a line for us and should discourage other parents interested in drawing a line, sending a message to authors that they do not have to do this to appeal to kids and to sell books. If you buy these books for your kids, just keep a space for parent/child discussion which may prove fruitful. In the future, R.L., please consider my input. You have limited a vital audience.