It is a story of Naz, a 13 year old foster child who has been in several placements with his younger sister Meri. He is struggling with being a teen and apparent mental health issues and most of all with an overwhelming need to provide for and keep his brilliant sister safe. It is obvious from the start that there is more to him than would seem, but as Naz hasn’t yet figured that out, the reader gets pulled along with him on a journey towards discovery, feeling with him the confusion and wonder of his life.
This journey is dotted with many fabulous characters. The relationship between Naz and his sister is the perfect capture of sibling rivalry in its best levels. Coach Fears reminds me of all my favorite middle school teachers rolled into one. Dr. Gwen is the quintessential therapist walking the line between being a clinician and caring friend. The Chess Master is gloriously mysterious. Naz’s schoolmates offer so much potential, I will enjoy seeing how they flesh out in subsequent installments of the series.
At the surface many kids will find something to identify with. The hard part of just being a kid coming of age in a tough neighborhood is beautifully conveyed and would have been a story worth following all its own. However, there is more to Naz than it would seem. His dreams and the voices he hears mean something, strangers seem to be following him and there is a gang of bully boys that really have it in for him. I can’t wait to see what happens next for Naz and Meri. It will be something to see as this young man learns more about his mysterious past and gains confidence in his own abilities. Also, I am almost sure Dr. Gwen knows more than she is letting on and who is the stranger? I would also love to learn about The Exclave and its colorful cast of characters. It is a place that can be dangerous, but also seems to be a refuge of sorts. I will be waiting impatiently for IA: B.O.S.S. the rumored next book in the series.
I would recommend this book to readers 7th grade and above. Some younger advanced readers might also enjoy it, most adults will as well.