Lacey Chu has big dreams of becoming a companioneer for MONCHA, the largest tech firm in North America and the company behind the “baku” – a customisable smart pet that functions as a phone but makes the perfect companion too. When Lacey finds out she hasn’t been accepted into Profectus – the elite academy for cutting edge tech – it seems her dreams are over. Worst of all, rather than getting to choose one of the advanced bakus, she’s stuck with a rubbish insect one.
Then, one night, Lacey comes across the remains of an advanced baku. Once it might’ve been in the shape of a cat but it’s now mangled and broken, no sign of electronic life behind its eyes. Days of work later and the baku opens its eyes. Lacey calls him Jinx – and Jinx opens up a world for her that she never even knew existed, including entry to the hallowed halls of Profecus. Slowly but surely, Jinx becomes more than just a baku to Lacey – he becomes her perfect companion. But what is Jinx, really? His abilities far surpass anything written into his code or built into his motherboard. He seems to be more than just a robotic pet. He seems … real.
Title: Jinxed | Series: Jinxed #1 | Author: Amy McCulloch | Publisher: Sourcebooks Young Readers | Pub. Date: 2020-Jan-7 | Pages: 336 | ISBN13: 9781492683742 | Language: English | Content Warnings: None | Unstarred Review
Jinxed has an absolutely fascinating idea in the bakus – robot animal replacements for our phones – that enchanted me almost immediately. I could see the bakus, see how they’d work with us in real life, and I loved it. When you add in a STEM environment where kids are encouraged to learn to be better inventors? Oh yes, please, I will read it all and I would like a baku of my own, please. (Though, truthfully, I wouldn’t want Jinx. Jupiter sounds more my style.)
Except… I kind of feel like I wasn’t given enough to read. I don’t normally care about not having a lot of world-building, but there’s almost none present in this book. No sense of what the outside world is really like that would make you understand how something like Moncha Corp came to be. I mean, we geeks are fierce in our geekiness, but we’re not that obsessive/possessive that we would shut ourselves off from the outside world for no reason except ‘oh, look, cool robots!’, right?
There’s also so little time spent on the school stuff itself that it seems like wasted potential. I mean ask anyone who loves the Harry Potter books what they think of Hogwarts. I almost guarantee you that they have an opinion of the castle itself because it has character. It’s more than just stones and classrooms. You can’t just tell readers that this school is very cool and then just gloss over it – which is very much what it felt like. The first three-fourths of the book I was completely engaged. However, it lost me at the end. It went from feeling fresh and innovative to oh, yeah, I recognize this plot (and I’ve seen it done better). The end isn’t a fulfilling end at all. Technically, the arc of the first book is complete, but there’s a big difference between completing it and completing it well. You get a couple of paragraphs of glossed-over, semi yawn-worthy closure, and then get flung immediately into a cliffhanger. It really disappointed me because the rest of the book I felt had set everything up for something amazing.
I’m thankful that I had the opportunity to read the book ahead of publication, and I cannot stress enough how much I love the idea of the bakus, but ultimately I’m left feeling a bit adrift and can’t say I’d continue with the series even if the second book was immediately available.
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Lilyn G is the founder of Sci-Fi & Scary, and leader of the Coolthulhu Crew. She does book and film reviews for both genres the site focuses on. Her tastes run towards creature features, hard science fiction, and lots and lots of action. She also has a soft spot for middle-grade fiction that rears its head frequently.
Though no longer involved with Ladies of Horror Fiction due to other responsibilities and a too-full plate, she was one of the original 4 co-founders.
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