From the beginning, it’s been war against Singular, a multinational yet hidden institution working on perfection in brain transplantation. Basically, they have definitive research that shows immortality by setting their brains inside a different, younger, healthier body can be possible. Whether it would happen perfectly has always been another story, but they’re catching up, and they’re not afraid to take hostages and use them as subjects for their research. A lot has happened ever since Odin Ramby attempted to rescue a dog from whatever research was being implemented, and he ended up waterboarded before escaping both with the dog and the info, as well as a need for help from his sister, Shay. Well, now Odin and Shay know how multinational this thing has gone; from pretty much every major country in the world, including and especially the tar pit of the world, North Korea. Singular’s menace, boss and bandit Thorne, had Odin’s new girlfriend, a subject named Fenfang they rescued, shot. Vigilantism is over. It’s now time for a showdown in the third book. Twist, businessman and guardian of dozens of kids, friendly drug dealer Danny, loyal canine X, animal activist Odin, Latino brothers Cade and Cruz, Cade being the tech whiz and Cruz being the lover boy, and Shay, the lovee who’s requited.
The first book in the series, Uncaged, was a nice little treat, especially when it empowered kids who were willing to hold up their fists in the face of bad grown-ups. One of my favourite moments was when two of Singular’s men try to abduct Shay at Twist’s hotel and all the roughneck kids sabotage them and not only prevent them from doing so but scaring them off quite effectively. Yeah, these kids scooped off the streets aren’t afraid to make people scared of them. Shay and her new friends also start performing stunts that illegally get the public’s attention way long before the police can, for fear of people being inspired to imitate, take down the evidence. My favourite was when they manage to decorate the Hollywood mountain logo in thousands of Christmas lights in the middle of the night. The second book in the series was also fun but was unfortunately more conventional in the action department. This third book’s approach is basically the most legal way possible, if sneaking past razor-wire fences, abducting the guards and capturing evidence of burned bodies is legal (that last one is, anyway), and that way is reaching out to the press and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Another thing I forgot about prior to starting this book but remembering this book is filled with is these kids are trained in combat and/or spying, but they’re also relatably imperfect. They also use Google Maps and basic research while fretting over the internet connection, and do long last-second road trips and hide out in motels. Most of the things these guys do is things I could see lots of people being able to do in the same way. It’s kind of like Michael Vey, where in that book series, the kids had superpowers and that’s why they had to head out on missions, but they were not only in a war they were never trained for, but there are machines their enemy institution has up its sleeve to render their powers mute. Kind of like how Singular tries to come up with genius dastard ways to discredit the heroes.
This is also not an action book that spends four fifths of its time sitting around planning. That’s not what people were excited to read about in the third and final entry. There’s loads of chapters that spring side missions, and loads of times where you can’t help but wonder if arrests are about to be in order.
One flaw I want to bring up is that it was a little hard to believe the FBI, even with a bit of evidence, would both take what Shay and Twist bring seriously and have their base as connected and up-to-date as they are here. After two years of journalism, I learned that lots of people, even journalists and detectives themselves, will not be interested in someone’s case unless it’s straight to the point and simple, and it feels like too often our heroes bring overly protracted information to new listeners of the case. But at least at the same time, we feel that Singular’s attempts to slither out of the mess are working, and that it’s Shay and Twist that have it rough trying to expose and cancel the criminal organization. Very few times in this series (and in the whole mission the series glides in) have they had the upper hand, and that does get to oneself as feeling simply unfair, making you want to know how this will all end.
What would’ve brought the book back up to when it was as fresh as the first entry, what would’ve been the cherry, would be if the president in this almost congruent-to-ours world had been Barack Obama. Because God knows Obama would not have stood for the Singular corp’s despicable schemes, and if this book were to be published a year later, in 2017, God knows Knopf, this book’s publisher, would’ve made a few big tweaks to keep the storyline modernly acceptable. One example is a supporting Republican Conservative character who, while he admits his base’s reputation would discredit his testimonies, is still on the evil and phony side when it comes to environmental and humanitarian issues. John Sandford and Michele Cook probably would’ve changed this fact had they realized the future. And while I won’t spoil how the book ends, I will say how the characters conclude their tale does make me feel like I didn’t waste my time picking up the rest of the series after Uncaged.