July 2013, 254 pages.
Source: from author for review. All opinions are my own and are not influenced by anyone.
"Stryker" is a middle-grade novel, for ages 9 and up.
Since his mom died a few years ago, Harold Stryker has been following her instructions:
He lives all alone, in secret, in his house outside Los Angeles.
He avoids, as best as he can, other kids, and certainly grown-ups.
He keeps only his huge, gassy dog and his collection of power tools for company.
he's okay with all that. Until the big night of the little earthquake.
And his plunge into a dangerous forgotten tunnel beneath his dining room
floor. And his encounter with the sweet, terrifying girl baseball star
named Tien Tang and the compulsive, camo-suited, overweight force of
nature known officially as Bella but universally as Blunt. They push and
pull him through an underground adventure with a bullying science
teacher, a tasteless chef, a greedy criminal, hairy tarantulas (live),
sabertooth cats (long dead), smelly mushrooms, old trolley cars, new
subways, and a baker's dozen of illegal Asian immigrants who need to be
rescued from a life of slavery in a California ghost town. Harold
Stryker is okay with all that too. But those two girls are now his
friends. And that has him shaking.
I thought this was a very creative adventure book that both boys and
girls would enjoy!! I loved how the story starts right out with a bang--literally. When a small earthquake hits, Stryker discovers a secret that
will change his whole life as he knows it.
I remember reading
The Boxcar Children when I was younger and thinking about how much fun
it would be to live on my own--because I was obviously old enough to do
so, right? Not. Harold Stryker (who prefers to go by his last night) is
lucky enough to do just that. Well...maybe lucky isn't quite the right
word, but regardless, he's on his own and he's only 12. Although Harold
isn't a really deep character, his emotions show throughout this story,
which really endears him to the reader. He's very resourceful and
socially backwards, but he has some very genius ideas and is really a
I loved how the story started out with Stryker's
and then told about three girls and their experiences with that same
earthquake and how it brought them all together. Tien (aka TNT or just
plain T) was really delightful. She had some spitfire and yet she was
very in tune with the feelings of those around her and was great at
diffusing stressful situations--unless she was the one in the middle of
Bella Lunt, otherwise known as Blunt, reminded me of
Peppermint Patty on The Peanuts cartoons. She was loud, crazy, bossy,
and didn't quite know when to stop and let things drop, yet she was the
push and shove behind a lot of their schemes. Things wouldn't really
happen without her around.
Pakpao (or Oi) was a sweet trooper who
really cared for others, even when they weren't very nice to her. I
loved how they translated everything for each other.
loved the characters. The storyline kept me turning pages--it was so
much fun and so different from anything I've read. I got the impression
that another book with this group may be in the works--it didn't really
end on a cliff hanger, but on more of a teaser. My only complaint would
be there was a little more swearing than I would like to see for this
target audience (middle grade).
Content: some cruelty (slavery); some language.