When ten-year-old Hollis Whittaker picks up a strange medallion he stumbled upon at the edge of a stream, he suddenly begins exhibiting signs of brilliance, even discovering the solar system’s Planet X and astounding the astronomical community. The awkward, overweight fifth grader with heart problems is an instant media sensation, but all is not well. The genius-making medallion bonds to only one person for life and the U.S. government has been searching for it since World War II, which means they’re prepared to kill Hollis to acquire it so they can exploit the medallion’s immense power.
After a thwarted hit job by two military agents, Hollis treks cross-country with the aid of his best friend Kirby and a Navajo woman, Cha’Risa, whose family possessed the medallion—the Níłch’i—more than seventy years ago. They are hoping Cha’Risa’s aged grandfather will be able to help them. Unfortunately, the whole country believes she has kidnapped the boys, and the agents who are trying to kill Hollis have the system on their side.
I really enjoyed this coming of age book. The main character was just an average student, not in the best of health, and lacking in confidence. He finds an artifact that turns his life into a huge adventure, and along the way, he finds confidence and learns how much he loves and appreciates his family and friends, old and new. I received an advance reading copy from NetGalley.
Shanahan has created a rich world conjured from part myth and part what can only be their own experiences as a youth growing up in a world that forces them to question everything. It isn’t every day that we have our lives turned on its head like that of Hollis, but Shanahan takes us through the fast-paced narrative of Hollis with a believability and intensity that leaves this reader desperately awaiting the sequel.
Hollis Whittaker is an entertaining adventure I did not want to put down. What kid doesn’t have a good luck charm? When Hollis finds his, he becomes a boy genius unwittingly launched into a cross-country journey fraught with danger. His companions on the drive are best friend Kirby and a Navajo woman named Cha’Risa. The three exchange banter that left me laughing out loud while I wondered what threat was around the next corner. Ages 12 and up.