The Unexplainable Disappearance of Mars Patel
By John Lachine,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Mystery series offers adventure and learning; light peril.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this podcast.
Entertainment edges on infotainment through factoids woven into the narrative. Supporting materials, such as character and comprehension worksheets or transcripts, are available on the official website for parents and teachers looking to maximize educational value. Social-emotional lessons are taught on how to approach issues like teasing, bullying, gender identity, and other topics tweens and teens may find relevant to their social experience in middle and high school. Common mindset that grades define kids or that they need to fit in are challenged throughout the story.
Central themes are perseverance, loyalty, friendship, teamwork. Emphasis on being unique and staying true to yourself, even if you don't feel like you fit in. Unrealistic standards and academic pressures put on children are highlighted. References many relatable issues middle school kids go through in their personal lives, like understanding who they are and how they identify, friendships and romantic relationships, and standing up for what's right.
Positive Role Models
Characters model thoughtful communication between peers, activism, teamwork between a diverse group of young people from different backgrounds and perspectives. Characters are thoughtful communicators, use positive supportive language. They work together cooperatively to discover solutions to problems, communicate their feelings openly and honestly. Some adult characters come off as indifferent, preoccupied, untrustworthy and at times treat children like they're a nuisance. Some characters tease others for being different, but main characters represent uniqueness as a superpower. Many adults write off Mars and his friends as "misfits." JP, who is nonbinary, references being bullied by other students, being called a "boy girl," and explains how they deflect these comments as ignorant. Main characters are often teased for being "troublemakers," "freaks," and "losers" but band together to stay true to their character and accept one another for who they are.
Main character Manu "Mars" Patel is Indian American. Different family dynamics are represented: Aurora's parents are divorced, Mars' mom is a single mother who works two jobs to take care of Mars and their household. Characters have different challenges they deal with, like Jonas in season one, who has irritable bowel syndrome, and Julia in season two, who has a degenerative disease that prevents her from walking. Though disabilities are part of the story, they do not define the characters who have them. JP is nonbinary, asks others to use "they" as their pronoun. JP references being bullied by other students, being called a "boy girl."
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Violence & Scariness
Premise of first season centers around kids who seemingly go missing. Scuffles and explosions occasionally take place. Risky situations include breaking and entering and equipping a homemade jet pack. Tense music and sound effects build up feeling of suspense throughout. Some depictions of peril.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
References to characters having crushes on each other. Mars is hiding under a table to avoid being seen by a teacher when a female student accuses him of looking up her skirt to try to embarrass him, although it's clear that's not his intention.
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Some name-calling such as "loser," "freak," "dumb," and "butt crack." Some teasing.
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Products & Purchases
Some age-appropriate ads.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Character references liking the smell of bleach because "it makes my head feel fuzzy."
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Unexplainable Disappearance of Mars Patel is a Peabody award-winning audio mystery series that inspired a book of the same name. Its positive messages, strong role models, and diverse cast are just the kind of thing adults can confidently share with younger listeners. Some risky behavior does take place, such as breaking into a friend's house, not listening to teachers at school, and running away from home, but it is always in the spirit of service: helping rescue kidnapped friends. Themes of loyalty, perseverance, and idealism are on display, and characters model teamwork and thoughtful communication. Tense music and sound effects create a sense of suspense and peril throughout, and there's some teasing and name-calling among characters: "loser," "freak," "dumb," and "butt crack." Overall, the diverse cast of characters gives a well-rounded sense of different family dynamics, backgrounds, and experiences.
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What’s It About?
In THE UNEXPLAINABLE DISAPPEARANCE OF MARS PATEL, students from H.G. Wells Middle School start to go missing. Mars Patel and his group of friends are surprised to find that they're the only ones willing to investigate. As they go in search of their missing friends, they discover that other kids from around the world have gone missing too. Their search eventually leads them to suspect Oliver Pruitt, a prominent public figure and science and tech billionaire. Pruitt is also the founder of Pruitt Prep -- a school, it turns out, that may not be exactly what it seems.
Is It Any Good?
This award-winning audio mystery series earns its good reputation. Not only does The Unexplainable Disappearance of Mars Patel teach as it entertains, but fantasy elements such as kid characters having superpowers make it exciting to follow along. Sound effects are fully immersive, making you feel like you're along for the ride as you follow characters to desert islands and even on spaceships through outer space. Take this and add some out-of-this-world voice acting performed by actual young people, and what you get is one exceptional audio series.
It takes the book to a whole new level and is bursting with fun stunts, colorful and comical dialogue, and interesting factoids that are sure to keep both young listeners and adults engaged.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about the different characters in The Unexplainable Disappearance of Mars Patel. How are each of their experiences and backgrounds different? What differences do you and your friends have? Family? Experience? Racial or ethnic backgrounds?
Do you think it's fair that only certain kids are allowed to attend Oliver Pruitt's school? If you could create your own school, how would you make it all-inclusive?
Characters demonstrate perseverance and teamwork, and they communicate well with each other. Why are these such important character strengths?
Each character's uniqueness acts as their own superpower. What characteristics do you have that you would consider your superpower? What makes you unique?
- Release date: June 21, 2021
- Genre: Mystery
- Average Run Time: 17 minutes
- Website: https://www.marspatel.com/
- Host: N/A
- Publisher: Gen-Z Media
- Pricing structure: Free
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Book Characters, Middle School
- Character Strengths: Communication, Perseverance
- Award: Common Sense Selection
- Last updated: June 17, 2022
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.
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Where to Listen
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