Jinxed is a romp of a book, sitting perfectly at the upper MG/lower YA bound and with a fun focus on technology and the future!
Book: Jinxed by Amy McCulloch
Read before: No
Ownership: E-ARC sent free of charge via NetGalley. All opinions my own.
I really wasn’t expecting to enjoy this book as much as I did – I tend to lean towards fantasy, not contemporary or sci-fi, so the near-future elements weren’t necessarily going to be my cup of tea, and I was expecting this to be slightly cookie-cutter YA, complete with angst and romance. But I was very pleasantly surprised to find that it has much more of the adventure and friendship feel of a really good middle grade book, just with a slightly older focus, so would be absolutely perfect for those pre-teens and teens sitting in the middle of the two age ranges.
The story follows Lacey Chu, who is desperate to get into the elite Profectus Academy and start her tech career. This is set in the near-future, with much more prominent technology than we have currently, but the way in which that tech is seamlessly incorporated into society definitely feels believable as a place we could be headed. Moncha, the largest tech firm in America, owns everything from neighbourhoods to schools, and definitely in no way resembles Apple at all, wink wink. The coolest part of this tech-filled world is the bakus, which are smart-pets – electronic, customisable animals that have all the functions of a smartphone or tablet and then some. They’re a literal status symbol as well as a tool, and Lacey is devastated when she is rejected from Profectus and only able to get a bottom-tier baku – until she finds a much better, but badly mangled cat baku in the woods. Once she fixes Jinx up, her fortunes start to change, starting with that crucial acceptance to the academy…
There’s so much going on in this book, from amazing representation of girls in STEM to issues of snobbery and elitism in technology, to regular old school bullying (which doesn’t go away, no matter how many robots you might throw at it) – and yet, for all that it incorporates these issues, the book remains light-hearted and extremely good fun. I absolutely loved the baku battles, which are a sort of mix of Pokémon battles combined with Robot Wars! There’s no romance, which I thought was an excellent decision, as it would have felt shoehorned in given how much the story is focused on friendship and self-belief. Watching Lacey navigate the world of Profectus had me rooting for her, especially because she was just so darn competent at her tech work, which is such a positive thing to see. I couldn’t help but fall in love with Jinx, either!
It’s definitely a very fast-paced book, with a good combination of real life and mystery, and it left me really wanting to read the second book! We need more books like this – books that sit in that early teen phase, and books that don’t follow the classic YA romance-in-everything mould. Five out of five (robot) cats!