“Mystery lovers will be satisfied by the plot and adults will love the curriculum and social awareness tie-ins.” —School Library Journal
Eleven-year-old Luis is left looking for answers after a city-wide blackout leads him to an electrifying mystery in this edge-of-your-seat thriller from Martha Freeman.
Luis Cardenal is toasting a Pop-Tart when a power outage strikes Hampton, New Jersey. Elevators and gas pumps fail right away; soon cell phones die and grocery shelves empty. Cold and in the dark, people begin to get desperate.
Luis likes to know how things work, and the blackout gets him wondering: Where does the city’s electricity come from? What would cause it to shut down?
No one seems to have answers, and rumors are flying. Then a slip of the tongue gives Luis and his ex best friend Maura a clue. Brushed off by the busy police, the two sixth graders determine they are on their own. To get to the bottom of the mystery, they know they need to brave the abandoned houses of Luis’s poor neighborhood and find the homeless teen legend known as Computer Genius. What they don’t know is that someone suspects they know too much, someone who wants to keep Hampton in the dark.
In this electrifying mystery, two can-do sleuths embark on a high-tech urban adventure to answer an age-old question: Who turned out the lights?
Martha Freeman wrote her first story when she was four years old. The illustration shows a house, because a house was the one thing she knew how to draw, and two nose-less girls. Over one girl is a speech bubble that says: “A home.” Over the other is another speech bubble: “Our home.” After that, Martha Freeman grew up, traveled around the world, worked as a reporter and a teacher, and wrote twenty-seven books for young readers, including The Year My Parents Ruined My Life, Fourth-Grade Weirdo, The Secret Cookie Club books, Who Stole Halloween?, and Effie Starr Zook Has One More Question. Home remains a theme in many of Martha’s books, but none is as pithy as that early effort. “Home” for Martha is Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
The story has all of the heroic elements. . . . The rich STEM themes make this novel noteworthy. The author has done a solid job weaving in science topics as well as current political and social themes, to create a significant story about infrastructure, science, and class relations. Mystery lovers will be satisfied by the plot and adults will love the curriculum and social awareness tie-ins.
– School Library Journal
Luis C. Gaitan grew up in East Camden knowing of few — if any — books about kids like him. Or neighborhoods like his. So when his friend Martha Freeman, the children’s fiction writer, sought to create a character based on the vivid stories he’d told her about his childhood, Gaitan agreed to help.
The result is a mystery, adventure, and lively slice of urban life called Zap! . . . [It] describes how 11-year-old Luis Cardenal and his best friend, Maura, pretty much save Hampton, N.J., after a mysterious marathon power failure nearly brings the city to its knees. The brisk and often funny novel is political without being polemical, educational without being didactic. It is aimed at middle school-age readers, but I enjoyed it, too.
I was particularly impressed by the fact that the collaboration between a skillful writer and an insightful source yielded an entertaining work of children’s fiction far more credible than some of those “Camden-is-hell” pieces by journalists.
Rolling Stone exposes may come and go. But Luis Gaitan — like his fictional alter-ego — has a different Camden story to tell.
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