On My Bookshelf: Jinxed by Amy McCulloch

June 29, 2020

Jinxed by Amy McCulloch is an action packed middle grades novel with good intentions. The characters are diverse and the plot concept is intriguing. However, the pace of the novel is at the cost of developing those characters and key scenes. Read on for more of my review and ideas for classroom application.
The basic plot from Amazon: The Golden Compass for the digital age! When a coding star enters an elite technology academy, she discovers a world of competition, intrigue, and family secrets—plus a robotic companion that isn't what it seems.

Lacey Chu has always dreamed of working as an engineer for MONCHA, the biggest tech firm in the world and the company behind the "baku"—a customizable "pet" with all the capabilities of a smartphone. But when Lacey is rejected by the elite academy that promises that future, she's crushed.

One night, Lacey comes across the broken form of a highly advanced baku. After she repairs it, the cat-shaped baku she calls Jinx opens its eyes and somehow gets her into her dream school. But Jinx is different than any other baku she's ever seen...He seems real.

As Lacey settles into life at school, competing with the best students in a battle of the bakus that tests her abilities, she learns that Jinx is part of a dangerous secret. Can Lacey hold on to Jinx and her dreams for the future?

Jinxed by Amy McCulloch is an action packed middle grades novel with good intentions. The characters are diverse and the plot concept is intriguing. However, the pace of the novel is at the cost of developing those characters and key scenes. Read on for more of my review and ideas for classroom application.
Why I liked it: Jinxed is an action packed middle grades novel with good intentions. The characters are diverse and the plot concept is intriguing. However, the pace of the novel is at the cost of developing those characters and key scenes. I never truly felt invested in Lacey and her journey because there just wasn't enough development of her character at the start.

I was particularly interested in the notion of the baku. Characters had a choice of the animal form their robot companion would come in with more sophisticated animals costing more. In the book, part the appeal of a robot in animal form is that it is less threatening than one in human form. This sparked my thoughts about current technology like Alexa and Siri, which are both "female." Does that make them less threatening to humans than if they had "male" identities? I also appreciated the theme of friendship throughout the book as Lacey makes new friendships she struggles to find time for old friendships.

The ending of the novel also felt rushed, with Lacey's discovery of Monica sedated within MONCHA's headquarters and the release of Jinx. The ending also left unanswered questions about Lacey's father and I couldn't help but wonder if there will be some stronger connection between him (last name Chu) and the head of MONCHA, Monica Chan. I suppose we'll have to wait for the next installment in the series to hopefully clear some of that up.

Classroom application: I would recommend this novel to middle school students who are interested in science fiction, technology, and engineering. Students who enjoy shows like Robot Wars and Battle Bots will be thrilled by the baku battle scenes in the book.

After reading, students could do research about the benefits and perceived threats of smart technology. Students could also research secondary education programs that lead to employment (Lacey's school funnels into a corporation) and explore how the ideals of innovation can lead to burnout (like Lacey's father).

If you are interested in purchasing a copy of Jinxed for yourself, you can find it on Amazon here.

Note: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. The Literary Maven is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

Jinxed by Amy McCulloch is an action packed middle grades novel with good intentions. The characters are diverse and the plot concept is intriguing. However, the pace of the novel is at the cost of developing those characters and key scenes. Read on for more of my review and ideas for classroom application.

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