Title: Omega CityI'm loving that some of my favorite YA authors - Carrie Ryan and now Diana Peterfreud - are branching out into the MG genre. This MG debut from Peterfreud is an action-packed adventure story that brings together an engaging cast of characters who must escape the clutches of a dangerous foe while navigating the dilapidated remains of a secret underground bunker.
Author: Diana Peterfreund
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Pub. Date: April 28, 2015
Genre: Middle Grade
Rec. Age Level: 8-12
More by this author: Rampant, For Darkness Shows the Stars
Gillian Seagret doesn’t listen to people who say her father’s a crackpot. His conspiracy theories about the lost technology of Cold War–era rocket scientist Dr. Aloysius Underberg may have cost him his job and forced them to move to a cottage in the sticks, but Gillian knows he’s right and plans to prove it.
When she discovers a missing page from Dr. Underberg’s diary in her father’s mess of an office, she thinks she’s found a big piece of the puzzle—a space-themed riddle promising to lead to Dr. Underberg’s greatest invention. Enlisting the help of her skeptical younger brother, Eric, her best friend, Savannah, and Howard, their NASA-obsessed schoolmate, Gillian sets off on a journey deep into the earth, into the ruins of a vast doomsday bunker.
But they aren’t alone inside its dark and flooded halls. Now Gillian and her friends must race to explore Omega City and find the answers they need. For while Gillian wants to save her dad’s reputation by bringing Dr. Underberg’s secrets to light, there are others who will stop at nothing to make sure they stay buried...forever.
Like many MG action/adventure stories, Omega City follows a group of kids who must take down the bad guys without the help of parents or adults. What I liked about Peterfreund's take is that there's a teenaged boy a handful of years older than the core group of kids who is reluctantly pulled into the fight as well. In truth, I might have just liked that he was included as he provided a sort of comic relief. He's the protective older brother of Howard, the member of the group that is arguably the most obviously nerdy, and the pizza delivery guy that one of girls has a ridiculously huge crush on. I loved these little side elements that had little to do with the scifi plot of the novel, but served to add some dimension to the characters.
As I mentioned Howard is the character that, at first, seems a bit nerdy and weird. But, what I loved about this novel is that, as it progressed, it was clear that each of the kids had their special strengths and passions and that being nerdy is nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, being nerdy can be pretty darn cool. Even Savannah, who, at first, acts like she's above being smart and passionate about things other than boys, eventually realizes that being yourself - nerdiness and all - is infinitely more fun.
Most of the novel is set in Omega City, the secret underground bunker built by the genius Dr. Underberg before his mysterious disappearance. Peterfreud's descriptions of the underground city and the cultural markers with nods to the decade in which it would have been built, well before the present of our intrepid main characters, were spot on. I loved that this setting allowed Peterfreund to reference interesting bits of history as well as provide a fast paced scifi adventure.
Fans of Tony Abbot's Copernicus Legacy and Matthew Kirby's Spell Robbers or The Arctic Code will enjoy this book's premise and pacing. I'm hoping that there will be more MG from Peterfreund in the future!