A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Mars Evacuees by bestselling British author Sophia McDougall is a wartime sci-fi story about tweens and teens conscripted into military service and sent to train on Mars as defense fighters while humans battle a multiyear alien invasion on Earth. The kids are continuously in peril, and many have lost loved ones in the war or have family in danger; dead bodies are shown. The most disturbing violence, however, is the bullying and savagery among children (some beating and threatening others) when the adults are absent. The frequency of cursing (in times of stress and aggravation, teens and tweens use "hell," "damn," "Christ," and "bastard") makes this more appropriate for slightly older kids than the publisher's recommendation for age 8 and older.
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What's the story?
Earth has been battling invading Morrors since before 12-year-old Alice Dare was born. She rarely sees her mom, a famed fighter pilot, or dad, who works on subs. As the Morrors advance, she's yanked out of her British boarding school and sent to Mars with hundreds of children to train as defense fighters. Alice copes stoically -- until the few adults running Beagle Base disappear and the children, left on their own, start fighting. Alice and her friends -- smart Josephine, bold Carl, and his young brother, Noel -- set out to find help with Goldfish, a robot teacher. Along the way, they run into two very different alien species and find themselves in a unique position to change Earth's history.
Is it any good?
MARS EVACUEES is a successful launch for a sci-fi series by Sophia McDougall (the Romanitas trilogy). Liftoff drags a bit, but by the time the young heroes start bounding around Mars, readers will feel as if they're traveling with longtime friends. The kids bicker, naturally, but they have great respect for each other's talents -- and they all share the ability to make do with limited options and find ways to survive. Alice's narrative voice is the book's greatest strength: bright, lively, wry, and entirely believable as a 12-year-old girl navigating incredible circumstances. A comfortable mix of appealing humor, terrifying danger, and touching moments carries the story along.
The introduction of an alien way of speaking and thinking is ambitious but awkward and may be a stumbling point for some kids. The children's relationship with the alien Thsaaa unfolds tentatively and slowly, showing the patience and work that's sometimes needed to overcome bitter divisions and find common ground.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what happens at Beagle Base when the adults are gone. How would you cope with bullies in a situation like that?
Why do you think encounters between children and aliens are so popular in storytelling? How are they different from stories about encounters between adults and aliens?
Families who want to learn more about the topography and climate of Mars can check out the NASA app.
- Author: Sophia McDougall
- Genre: Science Fiction
- Topics: Adventures, Brothers and Sisters, Friendship, Great Girl Role Models, Misfits and Underdogs, Space and Aliens
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: HarperCollins Children's Books
- Publication date: February 17, 2015
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 8 - 12
- Number of pages: 416
- Available on: Nook, Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
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