Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 03 Jan 2020

Member Reviews

The future has never felt closer in this fun novel for teens and tweens.

Lacey's world is dominated by Moncha, the creators of the baku; a robotic pet that functions as a smartphone. She's desperate to join their ranks and become a companioneer, dedicated to creating newer, more lifelike baku. But things are rotten in Moncha and it will take all her skills and all her friends to help her figure out what's gone wrong.

This is a wonderful read, set just a few steps away from our world. Instead of going for sleek flat phones, Moncha went for robot animals, from insects right up to boars and eagles. Naturally, the larger animals are most expensive, but that's only fair, isn't it?

I liked the characters, they were well done, but I struggled with the idea of the baku battles. With something explicitly designed to be your best friend, and expensive to buy and repair, why would you risk it in all out battle? And in one of the battles, a competitor is explicitly causing damage for damage's sake, his opponent is already down and out. Why wouldn't the teachers stop him?

I love the idea of the baku, and I will definitely read the second part because that cliffhanger! Gah! And hopefully the reasoning behind the battles will become clearer to me in the second one. Maybe I just missed something! 

Overall, a really great read. Off to hunt down the second one!
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This was absolutely adorable. A great mix of STEM, fiction, scifi, strong female characters, and middle school. 
Lacey Chu is a middle schooler living in a contained city owned by MONCHA, a corporation that makes Bakus- a customizable smart pet (think smart phone, but more, and shaped like an animal). Lacey's one dream is to work for MONCHA but first she needs to be accepted into the highly competitive MONCHA school Profectus, a challenge since she'd be a scholarship student and can't afford the required level 3 baku. It feels like her life is over when she gets a dreaded rejection letter from Profectus and is forced to get a lowly level 1 baku bug. But then when she gets into a fight with the local bully Lacey finds what appears to be a junked baku. She repairs it and her life turns completely around, but Profectus isn't what it seems like on the surface and is her new Baku everything it appears?

I would like a baku please. 
I have to say, I read the part about the bakus fighting I was absolutely horrified. I just don't understand how you can force something meant to be a companion to destroy itself for fun. I kept thinking of animal fighting rings and how horrible that all is. I know they are robots, but it just felt super horrifying to me.
I loved how Lacey was super into creating things with her hands and a junkyard engineer.
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Lacey has always dreamed of attending Profectus school, which is geared to students who want to be Companioneers for Moncha Corporation. She has always tinkered with machinery and computers, and is excited about getting a baku of her own-- the android animals that are the digital communication devices of choice in her society. When she doesn't get in, she is crushed, but after rescuing her best friend Zora's baku, she ends up with a cat that has characteristics unusual for a baku. Suddenly, Lacey has gained entrance to the academy and her life is back on track. She fixes Jinx up, and is soon on a baku battle team at her school. She is better at repairs than anyone, fixing a completely crushed dog baku so that her team can continue. She even has a light romance going with the team captain. Still, there are problems-- Monica Chan, the founder of the baku movement, hasn't been heard from in a long tie, and Eric Smith is taking over. His evil son is trying to get Lacey kicked out of school. Lacey's father, who worked for Moncha Corp but left under suspicious circumstances, may be affecting her scientific progress. Lacey is even having problems with Zora, and she begins to suspect that Jinx's origin may be even more secret than she has suspected. A sequel, Unleashed, came out in the UK
August 22nd 2019 (Simon & Schuster Children's UK ), so hopefully we will see it here next year.

Strengths: The premise that since people always had cell phones with them, but the cells phones were making them anxious, so lets make faux pets that function like smart phones is brilliant. I always love books where the children have a passion in an interest, and Lacey has worked really hard to start on the path to making baku with Moncha Corp. The light romance is fun and doesn't take over the story, and there's a good balance between supportive and antagonistic characters. The baku battles will add another level of interest for students who want more action in the book; I was just enthralled with Lacey's ability to fix things!
Weaknesses: The British cover is SO much better. The US cover looks a bit too young, and this would do well even with high school readers with the older cover. I could have done without the mystery of her father, but maybe that will make more sense in the next book. 
What I really think: Definitely purchasing and hoping the second book comes out soon, since this ended on such a cliffhanger! Also, I would like a baku poodle WAY more than my idiotic new smart phone. Slider phones rule!
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OMG, yes. YES. 

Lacey Chu has always wanted to become a companioneer - an engineer for smartphone-like mechanical companions called "bakus," which take the shape of various animals. She has her own workshop in the basement of her apartment building, and is eagerly awaiting her acceptance letter from Profectus, an elite academy where students learn all about creating and repairing these creatures. She can't wait!
Unfortunately for Lacey, she doesn't get in, and is crushed - she can't even afford a nice baku without the school stipend, and is stuck with a stupid little bug one. 
But then, just when all hope is lost, strange things start happening. A chance encounter with a horribly broken and mangled (but very advanced) cat-shaped baku, which she lovingly fixes to a perfect state. An acceptance letter (was the rejection a mistake?) arrives - naming the cat as her baku? And the cat itself, which had named itself Jinx, seems to have a personality of its own. How is that even possible?

I feel like I'm not doing this book justice. I want a baku, and I want Lacey to be my BFF. I want to be part of this world so badly! I can't wait for book #2... which is a shame, because I have a long time to wait!
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Middle grades and YA readers of sci-fi and action/ adventure with get all that and more from McCulloch’s series opener “Jinxed.” Cell phones and tablets are completely outdated and instead, everyone has an engineered insect or mammal, called a baku, that is tricked out to do everything today’s smart phones and computers can, but can also become attuned to their owners needs and feelings. Lacey is a STEM whiz with her sights set on working for the premier technology firm and getting into a prestigious prep school is almost required in order to make that happen. Weird things happen and she gets in, but along the way, she finds an unusual feline baku in a scary state of disrepair, fixes Jinx up, meets a gorgeous fellow student, gets on a baku battle team, and discovers that someone is after her unusual cat companion and will stop at nothing to get it. McCulloch builds a world that is futuristic, but the teenaged characters still want and need all the same things that teens today yearn for: family, a sense of belonging, and the feeling that comes from being truly excellent at something. The baku battles are fast paced, the intrigue is not completely predictable and the ending has plenty of unanswered questions that will leave readers anxious for the next installment. 5th-8th graders are likely the target audience, but the action and creativity will also appeal to a slightly older crowd. Content notes-no profanity, one small kiss is the limit of the sexual content, and the violence is almost exclusively baku on baku. Highly recommended.
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I'm really hoping there is a sequel to this book. I was instantly wrapped up in the story, Lacey's character was so easy to root for. Her struggles were so real and the baku battles had me reading faster to see what was going to happen. And then...the book just ended. It has so much going for it with great characters, imaginative and interesting plot, energy and intensity. Too many questions were left at the end! Please write more!
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Jinxed is set in the not-so-distant future and has a very intriguing main story line full of mystery, suspense, and tech battles with a little romantic twist that seems to be inevitable in all YA stories.  I really enjoyed that it is quite focused on STEAM learning (STEAM, because there is artistry in there too), and since I run a MakerSpace through my school library it has me intrigued to look into what it would take to make a Baku into a real thing! Who wouldn't want a robotic pet that has all of the functions of a Smartphone and more?? The technology that is part of this story feels like it could be achieved  in our future and is part of what makes this story exciting to read! The hints of real AI are what kept me reading and has all sorts of Maker ideas running through my head. Sometimes science fiction becomes science fact: Who know what great tech discovery could be made with the ideas sparked from a youth reading this book?

The story is fast paced and I think, even with a female protagonist, boys would really enjoy it. I know that I will be recommending the book to students in grades 5 and up.

There is definitely more to the story as it ended on a major cliffhanger and there are some story lines that are not wrapped up - meaning I have questions and I want them answered! I really look forward to reading the second book when it comes out.
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This very exciting story is about Lacey Chu, who really wants to grow up to be just like Monica Chan, the inventor of the baku, a combination communication device and companion.  Lacey is trying really hard to get into an elite prep school and is crushed when she doesn't get in, until she finds a baku that has been badly damaged.  When she gets it repaired, she finds that suddenly she HAS been accepted to the school.  This baku is really different from other baku-it seems to think for itself instead of just following commands.  So when her baku Jinx disappears, Lacey is determined to get him back.  This is a very fast paced mystery with lots of exciting plot twists and interesting characters.  I can't wait to get this one to my students!
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