Area 51 Interns #1: Alien Summer by James S Murray & Carsen Smith

I literally have no idea who “Murr” is but apparently he’s super famous on the Internet, and I got to read this cool book by him and Carsen Smith!

This middle grade novel features Viv Harlow, who’s about to graduate middle school and is super anxious about having one last perfect summer with her best friends Charlotte and Ray. Getting to know her crush Elijah better before they all head off to different high schools would be the icing on the cake. To this end, she’s intent on spending as much time as possible by the lake with the rest of her graduating middle school class as soon as summer begins. Alas for her, her mother has other plans.

Viv’s mom is the Director of Future Technology at Area 51, the government facility that’s considered a bit of a joke by most of the people who live around it. It doesn’t help that the site has attracted food vendors and souvenir mongers, giving it all a bit of an amusement park vibe. When Director Harlow announces that Viv has to come with her for Bring Your Child To Work Day, scheduled for the very first day of vacation, Viv is less than thrilled but glumly goes along with her mom’s plans.

She perks up considerably when she realizes that Elijah is stuck there too, as are Charlotte and Ray. But things get really wild when an alarm goes off, indicating that someone… or something… has gotten loose from the containment units. Suddenly, the shabby government facility throws off its facade to reveal its actual high tech trappings. But the escaped creatures will let nothing stand in their way, and soon the four friends are the only ones left protecting the facility — and their families — from the escapees’ nefarious plans. But who’s really the bad guy here, and what will Viv do when she discovers the truth?

This was a fun romp of a book that’s perhaps surprisingly heavy on the romance, even as it hits all the wacky technology beats you’d expect of young people’s sci-fi. It’s not a hugely serious or deep novel, but is definitely the kind of thing you’d hand to a young person craving more easily digestible sci-fi in their life. It’s also a decent launch point for the rest of the series, with a diverse cast (for the most part — the only way I knew Viv was Black was from the awesome cover) and some interesting hooks along the way. I really dig the fact that the next book is going to focus on cryptids, which are a particular interest of mine.

Area 51 Interns #1: Alien Summer by James S Murray & Carsen Smith was published March 15 2022 by Penguin Workshop and is available from all good booksellers, including

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