Score: 94/100 (9.4 out of 10)
What a fun, wild, and exciting ride! It seems like we read ICDA by Andrew Zellgert at just about the perfect time. We just got done reading several mind-bending books about anti-heroes trying to solve chaotic and crazy mysteries together, exploring everything from aliens and and time-travel, usually with surprising seriousness. The difference between many of those books and this one is that this book is plain, ole' FUN!
Andrew Zellgert clearly wrote this book for young adults, and it shows. There's a lightheartedness and sense of adventure that reminds us of a combination of The Sun and the Starlings by Barbara Hill and Einstein's Desk by Dominic Melillo. What a combination, huh? But they are all awesome books that, despite being tonally different, cover relatively the same grounds.
Something that immediately grabbed us and held us tight was the endearing and cute fantasy element of this novel. For example, one of the best characters in this book is a talking owl named Mr. Barns! Get it? “Mr. Barns” as in barn owl. We loved him! He's a mix between Dumbledore and R2D2 if you can even believe that. He's very wise (as an old own should be) and serves as a great, loyal companion to the protagonists. There's also a talking brachiosaurus in here!
Anyway, moving on to the MCs... Timmy is a great blank-slate protagonist. Though he doesn't especially stand out as an elite character, he still gets us behind him with his youthful energy and positive disposition. There's also Bethany, another solid character. In fact, Bethany is an even more interesting and charismatic character than Timmy. She is a Mary Sue, but in the best way possible. She's an extremely capable and intelligent young woman who is wise beyond her years, but she is still vulnerable and we are still able to worry about her and fear for her. Timmy and Bethany are constantly put into dangerous and difficult situations. They are constantly in peril. That's GOOD! Well, not good for them, but good for us as the readers. It constantly has us on edge worrying if they'll be alright. And we want them to be alright. They are truly protagonists that young people can relate to and cheer for.
Speaking of being on edge, there's a character in here who always has us on edge when he's around and that's Agent Orange, one of the main villains/antagonists. And, yes, his name is really Agent Orange, so people who actually know what that is can get a chuckle at the inside joke. Agent Orange is ruthless and relentless. He would obviously be played by someone like Michael Ironside or Peter Stormare if this were a movie. The guy just keeps coming. Just when you think the heroes are safe and successful, there he is again!
Despite Agent Orange probably stealing the spotlight, the main villain is the aptly named Beezley Bub (sometimes just called “Bub”), a demonic figure who steals a valuable McGuffin and declares himself the king of the universe. The hilarious thing is, when he declares himself the king of the universe, the protagonists basically have a “no you're not” conversation with him like this is the 4th grade and we're at lunch recess. The entertainment factor never drops. It just keeps going. Even when something serious happens like someone gets shot and killed, we still get a lighthearted time-travel subplot from it.
So, yes, we can definitely recommend this book if you're interested in a lighthearted fantasy story!
Check it out on Amazon!