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Book Review: Conspiracy 365 January by Gabrielle Lord

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Author Gabrielle Lord has set quite a task for herself: she has to write 12 fantastic action novels for teens during 2010. That’s one a month, and they’re all part of a huge conspiracy novel that has multiple parts, secrets, betrayals, treachery, and one mystery after another. The series is being billed as a 24 for teens.

The first novel, Conspiracy 365 January, starts out with a bang. Fifteen year old Callum Ormond ‘s life is in constant jeopardy, first from a storm, then a life jacket that doesn’t function right, and finally by sharks that circle him and attack.

And that’s just the opening chapter, folks. After that, things turn wicked. Callum’s father is dead, passing away after a lingering illness that mentally drained him. At the end of his days, Callum’s father was tied to a bed, watched over constantly, and spent his lucid moments drawing sketches that no one understands and everyone seems to want. Man, I was totally sucked in by everything Callum’s facing, and I know he’s not going to catch a decent break the rest of the year. Just like Jack Bauer has those incredibly long days.

Callum finds out about the sketches, but before he can get his hands on them, his Uncle Rafe manages to get away with them. Since it was Uncle Rafe that got their boat into trouble in the storm, I didn’t like the guy from the get-go, but things get worse the more Callum explores. Even though Uncle Rafe is his father’s twin, the two of them couldn’t be more different.

After figuring out that his uncle knows more about the “Ormond Singularity” (whatever that is) than Callum does, our hero tries to outwit his uncle. Unfortunately, his dastardly uncle isn’t the only one searching for the secrets Callum’s father left behind.

Once Rafe ended up getting shot with his own gun and Callum’s little sister ends up in a coma, I knew things were about to turn worse. In no time at all, Callum is the most wanted young fugitive around – and wanted by just the police. His mysterious enemies are closing in as well.

Through it all, though, Callum’s good friend and electronic wizard Boges hangs with him. I like the friendship the two have, but the pacing is just too tightly constructed to show much of it. Still, there are 11 books to go.

The books are very stylistic as well. Chapters cover the days, sometimes only a page long, and sometimes they mark the passage of a few days. The individual chapters are also broken down by time stamps that keep the clock ticking for the reader. Another interesting twist on the book is that the pages are numbered backward, so you’re always reading down to page 1. The device has been done before, but I doubt today’s young readers have seen it, or that they will be any less intrigued by it than I was the first time I saw it done.

The book is incredibly fast-paced, so even reluctant readers and boys who’d generally rather play video games will probably get sucked up into the story. Plus, with one coming out every month, they won’t have long to wait before another novel shows up.

If Callum survives. The last time I saw him, he was trapped in a barrel that was filling up with oil!

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