A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Chosen: Contender is the first book in a sci-fi survival series by Taran Matharu, author of the Summoner series. Reform school boys wake up in a mysterious land where they fight for survival against monsters and dinosaurs. They battle mostly with swords, fire, and strategy, and a few of the teens are killed and eaten. Some gore is described, such as monster decapitation, splatters of blood, and a twisted blade through a beast's skull. Teens find many decomposing bodies, are kidnapped, and are terrorized and hit by bullies. There's talk of a teen boy dead after a drunk driving accident. Other mature content is milder. Salty language is used regularly (including "s--t," "damn," "jackass," "son of a bitch," in Latin as well as English). Readers will learn plenty about the Roman Ninth Legion, as well as explorers and inventors who've gone missing through the centuries. Cade, the half-Indian main character, is a history buff and the strategic thinker of the group. He starts out timid and turns into the group's capable leader who helps them face mortal danger together.
What's the story?
In THE CHOSEN: CONTENDER, BOOK 1, Cade is stuck in a reform school after he's kicked out of prep school for a crime he didn't commit. He spends his days trying to avoid the bullies, especially Finch, and pretending he's not as smart as he is so that he doesn't attract attention. Then he wakes up all alone on the side of a cliff with a ravenous monster below him. Before he can figure out how the heck he got there, he has to save his own life. He kills the monster and runs toward a mysterious force field. When he finds he can push through it, he encounters more boys from reform school on the other side (Finch among them, unfortunately). They'd all just faced the exact same peril -- a test of some kind? -- and judging by the faraway screams, some other boys didn't survive it. Things just keep getting weirder as they cross a desert full of decomposing bodies in ancient Roman garb and enter what looks like a medieval keep. Relief at finding beds and a garden of food is short-lived when a floating drone-like computer pops up, recites their names, and begins counting down to something it calls a "qualifying round." The teens have six days and no information on what new horror awaits them.
Is it any good?
If you thought the Maze Runner series sorely lacked Roman soldiers and dinosaurs, the cruel world Cade and his reform school frenemies find themselves in has you covered. Plus, they fight dinos with samurai swords and slingshots in a medieval keep. Overall it works as a cool mashup, though a confusing one far into The Chosen. Readers will want to ask many questions of the ever-present floating computer before Cade thinks of them, just to get some idea of the how and why they are there and whether things get more involved plot-wise than kill or be killed.
Answers do come at the very end of this first installment -- grim ones. Here's hoping Contender, Book 2, doesn't go too far down a very dark dystopian path. Avid readers of the genre have been down it too many times before.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Finch, the bully, and how he affects others in The Chosen. Only Spex is hit by him, yes, but who else suffers? What would you have done in each boy's shoes?
Will you read more of this series? What other mysteries do you think Cade will unveil about this world?
- Author: Taran Matharu
- Genre: Science Fiction
- Topics: Dinosaurs, Adventures, High School, History, Misfits and Underdogs, Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires, Space and Aliens, Wild Animals
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
- Publication date: June 4, 2019
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 12 - 18
- Number of pages: 368
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: July 18, 2019
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