cover image Be First in the Universe

Be First in the Universe

Stephanie Spinner, Terry Bisson. Delacorte Press Books for Young Readers, $14.95 (144pp) ISBN 978-0-385-32687-2

For their first collaboration, Spinner (coauthor of Aliens for Breakfast) and Bisson (Pirates of the Universe) concoct a sluggishly paced tale centering on twins Tessa and Tod, who happen upon ""Gemini Jack's U Rent All"" at the Middle Valley Mall. When the two hold hands and walk backward, the store materializes ""at the end of a narrow corridor they hadn't seen before."" Inside, a man with too-smooth skin and too many fingers knows what they have come to the mall to buy--baking pans for their grandmother--and offers to rent them to the youngsters. Well before the siblings catch on, the authors let readers in on Jack's alien identity and mission on earth, which entails saving his planet by taking a DNA sample from entirely ruthless earthling twins. Gemini Jack also lets Tessa borrow a pink ""electronic pet,"" which the following day is stolen--along with other students' e-pets--from the twins' school. Tessa uses another gadget on loan from Jack to track down the culprits--a set of twins nasty enough to fulfill Jack's needs. Occasional funny moments surface in this convoluted caper, yet extraneous detail and an obvious conclusion considerably weaken its punch. Ages 8-12. (Feb.)