Amy McCulloch. Sourcebooks, $16.99 (336p) ISBN 978-1-4926-8374-2

McCulloch’s (The Oathbreaker’s Shadow) vividly imagined Toronto-set middle grade series opener intertwines smartphone technology with the hallmarks of classic science fiction via a fun, insightful narrative and bright voice. Lacey Chu, 12, lives with her mother in a “corporate mini city” that’s grown up around the campus of Moncha Corp., developer of baku—robotic companions that blend companionship with smartphone utility. Her dream is to begin seventh grade at the highly competitive, corporate-run Profectus Academy with an eye toward becoming a baku creator like her father, who disappeared under mysterious circumstances. Lacey is rejected despite excellent mechanical and coding skills, but when she rescues a nonfunctioning, battered baku—a cat that she names Jinx—she’s suddenly admitted. After spending the summer repairing Jinx, she joins Profectus’s hypercompetitive world, navigating friendships, social changes, academic excellence, and her decidedly and uncharacteristically headstrong baku. With a sharp eye toward the rising awareness of device addiction and a keen sense of wonder, McCulloch’s tale is a feast for the imagination that celebrates women in STEM fields. Ages 8–12. [em]Agent: Molly Ker Hawn, the Bent Agency. (Jan.) [/em]