Saturday, September 30, 2017

Secret Coders: Robots and Repeats

In this fourth book in the Secret Coders series (I reviewed books 1 & 2 here), the trio of programmers at Stately Academy, Hopper, Eni, and Josh, find themselves in even more ramped up situations. In the last book, they learned about the secret history of the school and found out that the source of their woes was the evil genius Professor One-Zero. Now, not only is the evil Professor changing the school schedule to further his evil schemes, but the school administration tries to break up the group so they can't foil any more plans. And the avenue for doing so is going through each of their families!

Not only does this book feature one of the more realistic parent-teacher meetings I have read, it also has a revelation that one of the characters who has been around since the beginning is actually from another dimension. That, coupled with the trio's getting to know the Turtle of Light (the most powerful turtle in the world), raises the stake on their investigations. So, simply put, there is a lot of dramatic build-up here that I think will get paid off in Book 5 (due out next year).

I have two caveats about this book, as well put together and interesting as it is: 1. It really helps to have read this series from the beginning, so this book is not a great jumping on point for a new reader. 2. The sections where they explain the specifics of coding still bogged me down some and took me out of the story. I know that those parts are necessary for solving the puzzles and moving the plot forward, but they are just a bit slow.

This book is a continuation of the collaboration between Gene Yang and Mike Holmes. Yang is one of the premier comics creators working today. He was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship and is currently the National Ambassador for Young People's Literature. He also won the Printz Award for his graphic novel American Born Chinese. He explores themes of immigration, belief, identity, and growing up in his many works, including The Eternal Smile, Level Up, The Shadow Hero, the twin volumes Boxers & Saints, and his current run on New Superman. Holmes is best known for his work on the weekly comic True Story and drawing Adventure Time comics.

The reviews I have read about this book have been mixed. Kirkus Review complimented it, writing, "Yang’s integration of coding concepts into an actual mystery plot even as he continues to deepen character development in under 100 graphic pages looks effortless; Holmes’ panels continue to visualize those concepts inventively." Conversely, Dustin Cabeal wrote that this will be the last book in the series he will read, because "the teaching moments are breaking the story too often, and it feels like the experiment here was to have both be interesting and work together. They’re not and haven’t been which is a shame." For further contrast, more reviews for the book can be seen at Goodreads, where it currently has a 3.5 star rating.

Robots and Repeats was published by First Second, and they provide a preview and more here. This series also has its own dedicated website with videos, info about all the books, and downloadable activities.

A review copy was provided by the publisher.

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