Children's fiction tends to abound with unlikely heroes, and saving the world seems to happen all the time, as if it's a rite of passage all kids go through around age 13. This is especially true in my favorite genre—fantasy. What's clever about The Extraordinary Adventures of Alfred Kropp [Bloomsbury] is that author Rick Yancey offers us a protagonist who truly seems incapable of the task he's presented with: stopping the evil forces of the world from getting their hands on the fabled Excalibur. High school student Alfred Kropp is a loner, slightly lacking in critical thinking skills and an easy pick for Least Likely to Succeed. Yet when his scheming uncle sets him up to steal from his boss, Alfred is unwittingly a pawn in a hostile takeover of Arthurian proportions. Alfred's journey is a coming-of-age, though it's precipitated by a highway car chase at 120 mph with descendants from the Round Table firing crossbows out the passenger window. Alfred isn't necessarily wiser by the end of his tale, but in trying to save the world, he ends up saving himself.