Jinxed – Amy McCulloch – Simon & Schuster (Aus) – Published 9 August 2018
Lacey Chu has big dreams of becoming a companioneer for MONCHA, the largest tech firm in North America and the company behind the “baku” – a customisable smart pet that functions as a phone but makes the perfect companion too. When Lacey finds out she hasn’t been accepted into Profectus – the elite academy for cutting edge tech – it seems her dreams are over. Worst of all, rather than getting to choose one of the advanced bakus, she’s stuck with a rubbish insect one.
Then, one night, Lacey comes across the remains of an advanced baku. Once it might’ve been in the shape of a cat but it’s now mangled and broken, no sign of electronic life behind its eyes. Days of work later and the baku opens its eyes. Lacey calls him Jinx – and Jinx opens up a world for her that she never even knew existed, including entry to the hallowed halls of Profecus. Slowly but surely, Jinx becomes more than just a baku to Lacey – he becomes her perfect companion. But what is Jinx, really? His abilities far surpass anything written into his code or built into his motherboard. He seems to be more than just a robotic pet. He seems … real.
Jinxed is a fun, near-futuristic science-fiction novel that will appeal to young teen readers, especially those interested in STEM.
Lacey Chu’s one dream is to become a companioneer with the biggest tech company Moncha, the creators of the Baku – part smartphone part animal companion. But when she is rejected entry to the prestigious academy Profectus, a second chance unexpectedly arrives in the form of a broken Level 3 Baku. Lacey spends the summer fixing the robotic cat before joining her new classmates. She hopes no one will discover the way she was admitted or Jinx’s secret – he doesn’t act or communicate like a normal Baku. But the school-run Baku Battles throw Lacey and Jinx into the spotlight.
Like robot wars and high school, Jinx mixes advanced technology with friendship dramas and fights to the death (for the robots). Lacey is a keen companioneer – an engineer who specialises in tinkering and fixing the mechanics of the robotic pet companions. Lacey’s best friend is a gifted coder and both young ladies promote strong role models for young girls interested in the fields of science, technology and engineering, as does the founder and creator of the Baku technology, Monica Chan. Lacey greatly idolises Monica, her inventions, company, community and cities that have sprung up around the company and everything from the schools and employment programs she has created. I was a little suspicious of Lacey’s unwavering devotion to Monica and the technology. While this is slightly explored later in the novel, the focus on the Baku technology remains largely positive. It warrants further discussion with readers about such technology, the possibility of its creation in our own world and one’s response to it.
The Baku Battles bring plenty of action and drama to the pages of Jinx, heightening the stakes around Lacey and Jinx’s secret, exposing their strengths, and complicating Lacey’s life with both enemies and allies. With a dash of developing romance, friendship complications, plenty of intrigue still to be unraveled and a big cliffhanger ending, readers will be eager to get their hands on Jinx’s sequel.
Jinxed is a lighthearted and fun novel, perfect for young teen readers. With diverse characters and a focus on strong, talented females, it is an easy book to recommend.
The publishers provided an advanced readers copy of this book for reviewing purposes. All opinions are my own.
Category: Young adult fiction.
Themes: Robotics, STEM, animals, communication, robot competitions, high school, friendship, technology.
Reading age guide: Ages 11/12 and up.
Advisory: Violence between robots. No coarse language or sexual references.
Published: 1 August 2018 by Simon & Schuster (Australia).
Format: Paperback, ebook.