Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Strong lead characters, plenty of action
Cons: Slow start to the book
The Bottom Line:
International spy race
New series starts well
Can Charlie Be as Smart as Einstein?
New books from Stuart Gibbs are automatic buys for me. Yes, I’m not his target audience, but I find his novels so much fun. He’s been teasing a new series for a while now, and I was happy to get my hands on Charlie Thorne and the Last Equation.
Meet Charlie Thorne. She is highly intelligent, a great athlete – and twelve-years-old. She is attending college, if you can call only showing up on test days to be attending college, just biding her time until she is legally an adult. Until the day the CIA shows up and strong arms her into helping them on a mission of critical importance. It is believed that Albert Einstein developed an equation in the 1930’s that rivals his theory of relativity in importance, but he hid it to keep it from falling into the wrong hands. While people all over the world have been looking for it for decades, the race to find it has heated up, with the fate of the world potentially in the balance. Because Charlie is so smart, they think she can more easily decode the clues that Einstein left behind. Will Charlie be able to follow the clues to find it?
Since this is the first book in a series, it required a bit of set up to get to know the characters before the story really got going. As a result, the book felt a little slow at the beginning, but the second half more than made up for it as Charlie has to run for her life and faces betrayals and set backs on her quest to find the equation. I got caught up in the events by this point and had a hard time putting the book down.
Of course, we do need that set up since we are meeting everyone here for the first time. We get to really know Charlie and another couple of characters as the book progresses. In the midst of all the action, there are some great moments of character growth for each of them, which doesn’t surprise me at all. This isn’t to say the rest of the characters aren’t as good, but they don’t have the page time these three do, so it isn’t as surprising that we don’t get to know them as well. They are developed enough to keep us engaged in the story and care about the outcome, which is all that truly matters.
Usually, when I pick up a Stuart Gibbs books, I know I can expect quite a few laughs over the course of the book. In this case, the tone was more serious. Yes, I still laughed a few times, but it wasn’t as hard or as consistent as in other books.
But that more serious tone is in keeping with the more serious nature of the story. There are several deaths over the course of the story. Don’t worry, there isn’t anything that isn’t appropriate for the targeted middle grade audience, but it definitely helps up the stakes over some of his other series. Or maybe it’s that some of the action, especially in the Spy School series, feels so over the top it is hard to take them as seriously as I do these events. Either way, only the most sensitive middle grade readers will be bothered by the content.
The ending of this book leaves you anxious for more. Sadly, we will have to wait for Charlie’s next adventure. But anyone who has read Charlie Thorne and the Last Equation will be waiting to find out what happens to her next.
This book is part of this week's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday.