Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The Singular Menace – Book One: Uncaged

The Singular Menace – Book One: Uncaged

John Sandford, Michelle Cook
Fiction  Series
For ages 13 and up
Random House, 2014   ISBN: 978-0385753067

The people representing Singular Corp say that the scientists working at their research laboratory in Eugene, Oregon are looking for a cure for Parkinson’s disease, but an insider at the facility has told animal rights activists that the lab is being used for something else, and that the animals being used for the experiments are being subjected to appalling treatment. Hundreds of monkeys have already died. Something has to be done to stop the monsters before more innocent animals are tortured and killed.

   Seventeen year old Odin was recruited by an animal activist group to help them get into the lab. Though he is socially inept because of a mild case of autism, Odin is a skilled hacker and he also has a deep love for animals of all kinds. After the key card he made gets the activists into the lab, they set about destroying as much as possible. Odin and his girlfriend, Rachel, get some thumb drives from one of the offices which, their insider has told them, contain information about the experiments that have been conducted at the facility.  In addition, Odin takes a dog that he found, a dog that has been horrible maimed by the scientists.

   During their escape from the lab, one of the activists is shot by the security guard. The activists know that they are going to be pursued by the police. What they don’t expect is that Singular’s security people are also going to come after them. Singular want the thumb drives and the dog back, and they are willing to do anything to achieve their goal.

   A desperate Odin calls his sister, Shay, in the wee hours of the morning to tell her that he is in a great deal of trouble. Then Singular’s security men turn up at the foster home where Shay lives and she knows for sure that Odin is in danger. Though Shay is younger than her brother, she has always taken care of him, so she wastes no time, heading south in her brother’s wake to Los Angeles.

   Shay is not in the city long before she encounters a pair of ruthless thugs who clearly think she would be perfect to pimp out or to sell. Shay is a tough girl but even she is no match for two big men. Thankfully help arrives when a strange looking man appears on the scene. With him are two enormous enforcer types who quickly and easily deal with the thugs. The man gives her a card and from it she learns that he is called Twist. Twist invites her to call him when she is “ready,” and after she hears that Twist is to be trusted and that he runs a kind of hotel for homeless kids, Shay decides to give him a call.

   At the hotel Shay soon makes friends and she pays her way by helping Twist with his art projects. A very successful artist, Twist is rather strange but he is also fair and clearly cares about the kids who live in the hotel he owns. When Shay hears that whales have beached not too far away she knows that Odin and his animal activist friends will be there. With the help of her new friends Shay gets to the beach and sure enough there is Odin, who is being pursued by Singular security people. Odin has just enough time to give Shay the thumb drives and the dog before the Singular people push him into a van and drive away.

   When Shay sees what is on one of the thumb drives and when she sees what the scientists have done to the dog, she finally understands why Singular Corp wants the drives and the dog back and why they have kidnapped Odin. She has not idea how on earth she is going to get Odin out of the mess he is in, nor does she know how she is going to tell the world what Singular Corp is really doing.

   This gripping, sometimes downright shocking young adult thriller will keep readers guessing from the beginning of the book to the end. Readers will be eager to see what Shay and her friends do to rescue Odin and expose Singular Corp’s illegal activities to the world. 

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