Friday, September 16, 2011

Book Review: A Boy and His Bot, by Daniel H.Wilson (Bloomsbury, 2011)

Recommended for ages 9-12

On a class trip to a Mek Mound, an ancient Oklahoman Indian mound of land that resembles the Egyptian pyramids, sixth grader Code Lightfall discovers Mekhos, a manufactured, experimental world inhabited by robots and long forgotten by humans. The world is under the grip of the evil tyrant Immortalis, bent on the world's destruction; it falls to Code and Gary, an atomic slaughterbot brought to life by Code's imagination and Mekhos technology, to find the Robonomicon and save the day.

I notice that the heroes in books geared toward boys more often than not come from dysfunctional families, and Code is no exception. A shy boy, picked on by some classmates, ignored by others, Code is grieving the disappearance of his grandfather John a year prior. His parents are not in the picture. The only positive female force in the book is Peep, the little robotic probe that befriends him and leads him to the world of Mekhos. Gary the Slaughterbot plays the part of the big, dumb protector with the heart of gold. It's a journey to Oz tale of sorts for a more modern age, complete with beautiful but deadly surroundings like the Toparian Wyldes, kept beautiful by a race of robots whose job it is to trim and sculpt everything in front of them. Instead of the benevolent and powerful Oz, Boy and His Bot has Immortalis, the evil overlord who pushes all robots to the day of The Great Disassembly, when all of Mekhos will be undone. Code's main objective is to stop The Great Disassembly and get home.

I wonder why it is that young male characters' families are so flawed in YA literature. Is this an accurate reflection of the state of families today, or is this the newest hook to keep young boys reading? Is it a way to reach out to young boys that may be in crisis and refuse to speak?

Daniel H. Wilson, Ph.D. is the author of How to Survive a Robot Uprising, Where's My Jetpack, and How to Build a Robot Army. A Boy and His Bot is his first YA novel, but he has also written Bro-Jitsu: The Martial Art of Sibling Smackdown, and his Robot books are popular with older tweens and teens. He maintains a blog and Twitter feed.

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