cover image Beneath


Roland Smith. Scholastic Press, $16.99 (272p) ISBN 978-0-545-56486-1

Smith (Mutation) delivers a tightly plotted mystery that incorporates themes of nonconformity and social rebellion. Pat O'Toole, 13, is not surprised when his 18-year-old brother, Coop, disappears. Coop has always been quirky: he is an avid tap dancer, collects flashlights, can't drive, won't email, and once dug a tunnel more than a mile long in their Virginia neighborhood before a gas line explosion nearly killed the two of them. Pat's parents are preoccupied with their breakup, careers, and new romances, so when Pat begins receiving digital voice recordings from Coop, he sneaks away to New York City to find his brother. Clues lead Pat to an alternative society that exists underground, but he soon discovers Coop has been drawn into an exclusive and dangerous group called the Pod. The narrative is constructed as Pat's "hybrid journal," which has been "transcribed" from the brothers' digital audio recordings, putting their voices front and center. Humor, a perilous setting, intense relationships, and the slow unveiling of the machinations at work behind the Pod give the story emotion and grit. Ages 10%E2%80%9314. Agent: Barbara S. Kouts, Barbara S. Kouts Agency. (Jan.)