In a remarkably original work of middle grade fiction, Carr introduces us to the so-called "shadow world", one in which colors are duller, blacker, and eerily luminous, save for those made of one arbitrary substance: plastic. As a twisted version of our own reality, this alternate dimension, if you will, is one whose residents were never intended to cross over into the Chroma (color) world. Unfortunately, Emison's mother did.
This book is one that truly caters to its intended audience, remembering that pre-teens' interests and attention span are not those of adults. It begins by throwing us straight into the action, introducing us to Emison while drawing us immediately into the dilemma of rescuing a mother who has returned whence she came. Like many stories designed for a younger set of readers, adults play a supportive role, while children drive the plot forward. Their behaviors and thought patterns are authentic, and the personalities distinctive enough that I can believe Missy, Adam, and Emi to be actual kids, rather than caricatures of what an adult believes one to be.
Chromatics Attack successfully maintains an adventurous atmosphere throughout. It is a heady mixture of curiosity and urgency, childlike wonder warring against a more grown-up sense of responsibility. The result is a lighthearted, entertaining read that is just complex enough to stay interesting but straightforward enough to avoid overwhelming younger readers. It's a difficult balance, but Carr found it.
My only true criticism of this novel is the typographical errors that grew more plentiful as the book wore on. A missing "s" originally made me believe that Adam was adopted from China, which became confusing when his hair was light while Missy's was dark. Then there were a few instances of you're/your, and a sentence or two where an entire word seemed to be missing. These mistakes don't detract too much from the wonderful story, but they are still bothersome.
Chromatics Attack is a fun read that parents can feel comfortable having in their children's hands. The lack of a print copy could limit access, but as the prevalence of e-readers grows, this will hopefully become a moot point.
(Review copy provided by the author)