This is one of my four (so far) favorite fall books, and definitely my favorite fall middle-grade release. (No, I haven't told you about my other three yet; patience, dear readers.)
My love for Paul Feig already knew no bounds. I am a huge fan of the late, lamented TV show Freaks and Geeks (seriously huge - I own the $140 super DVD set that came in a replica yearbook with ninety bazillion hours of extras), and I also think his two memoirs of earlier life as a supergeek (Kick Me: Adventures in Adolescence and Superstud) are hilarious. So when I found out that Paul (I can call you Paul, right?) was writing a kids' novel I was pretty excited. And then the galley came and I was even more excited. So excited that I slipped the only copy off the galley shelf at the bookstore where I used to work and moved it with me to St. Louis. I finally unpacked that box last week, and there was Ignatius MacFarland: Frequenaut! staring up at me. Read me, read me, it implored. And so I did.
Dude. This is one funny book. This is one thrilling book. This is one fine middle-grade novel. It's sci-fi! It's comedy! It's freaking fantastic. Ignatius (Iggy) is one of those kids who is destined to be bullied in school, and he is. He has two friends who are equally bully-able, and they are walking targets for the school's population of buttheads. Iggy has grown weary of it all and continually wishes that an alien might spot him one day and whisk him off to another planet. When this doesn't happen, he decides that maybe he could build a rocket and blast himself into space, where of course an alien civilization will take him in and change his life. So the kids build this hilariously incompetent rocket out of a garbage can and license plates and a lot of other crap, and then one of them swipes his brother's illegal fireworks stash and they clean the gunpowder out of the fireworks and fill a coffee can with it (Uh...guys? Bad idea, okay?). They light the can on fire, and Iggy decides at the last minute that maybe this is a bad idea, but his backpack gets stuck on something and he can't get out of the garbage can rocket and then...BOOM.
When he comes to, he seems to be in the middle of the same field. Except the only thing that's the same is the basic terrain. What he doesn't yet know is that the explosion shifted him into another Frequency - like an alternate universe. He's technically in the same place, just slightly sideways. He meets a 16 year old girl named Karen who had a chemistry lab accident a year ago, which is how she ended up in this other Frequency, which is otherwise populated by a variety of bizarre alien creatures. Even more bizarre: five years back, a teacher at the high school in Iggy's neighborhood was supposedly killed when his house exploded. The teacher's in this Frequency, too, except he's reinvented himself as the President of the aliens and taken over the world. Karen is trying to stop him, and she wants Iggy to help her. Iggy just wants to get back to his own Frequency. However, it seems that once you become a Frequenaut, getting out of your current Frequency isn't as easy as it seems - especially not when your only friend is a one-woman revolutionary band and is being hunted by the President's army.
The plot is like nothing I've ever read before, and the book is what we'd been wishing for at the bookstore for years - not just sci-fi, but funny sci-fi. This is going to be a great book for kids who like stuff like The Mysterious Benedict Society - smart kids who like their adventure mixed up with a little comedy and a whole lot of brain activity. I love this book and I hope Paul Feig comes to St. Louis so I can tell him how much I love it in person.
Publisher: Little, Brown Publication Date: September 1, 2008