Mark Jeffrey’s Max Quick: The Pocket and the Pendant (2011, 294 pages) is fantastic fun. The book has an atypical printing history. It was originally published as a digital audio book. It is now being put out by Harper Collins Children’s Books. The Pocket and the Pendant is the first in a series of three Max Quick books.
Check out the author online at markjeffrey.net. His multifaceted site is really worth seeing. You can even purchase a Max Quick iPhone app or a Max Quick t-shirt there. He has written another fantasy series as well, Age of Aether. A trailer he made for the Max Quick books on his site provides possibly the greatest low quality trailer/high quality website disparity you are likely to find anywhere in cyberspace. Mr. Jeffrey is apparently excellent at writing and marketing, but not at making trailers. Also, he Skypes with elementary school classes about Max Quick for free. How cool is that?
I was hooked on Max Quick from the first paragraph:
Max Quick hunched forward as he walked along the sandy seaside road. He looked as if he were trying to smuggle his heart through the world. It was exactly 8:15 a.m. on the morning of March 14. He was angry. For lots of reasons.
The plot is relatively complicated compared to other middle grade time travel books I have reviewed. To me, all the specifics of the plot don’t matter–because there are enough transcendental concepts in this book to carry the whole thing. Concept one being, what if the whole world and all its inhabitants froze in time, except for you and a few other tweens? You encounter another unfrozen kid who becomes your ally. In a way it’s like the whole world is your playground. You can go into any store and take whatever you want. Then you meet other unfriendly unfrozen people. Some chase you. Others wanted to enslave or kill you.
Fantastic concept two: All movements you make in the frozen landscape are amplified. Simple running is effortless and each step is a bound that allows you to cover miles in just a few minutes. (Call it “whooshing”.) You can jump over trees. Everyone has the power of a super hero. Insanely difficult parkour moves become a cinch.
Fantastic concept three: there are a few richly illustrated books you may come across that show your future. If you stare at a picture you will be instantly transported to the real life version of the picture.
The three main characters in the book travel east across the country to NYC where evildoers have disrupted time. The three have to solve puzzles and pass tests of bravery and character to try to get time back to normal. The storyline touches on some big ethical questions.
The three main characters in the book are two boys, Max and Ian, and a girl, Casey. About the only problem I had with this book was with the depiction of Casey. She is almost always a big scaredy-cat. She is constantly turning white, screaming in fear, or crying. Even on the cover of the book in which Max looks like he is confidently doing the Riverdance (although I think he is whooshing), Casey looks like a deer caught in the headlights. I get that the book is more about action than character development, but still, I have to ask of the author, dude, what were you thinking making the main female character so lame?
All in all, though, a super entertaining read.