by Catherine Jinks
Marcus and his mom, Holly, head to Diamond Beach for a much needed vacation. Holly's a single mom, and she doesn't have a lot of money, so she buys a second-hand, smelly trailer and off they go to the very beach where Holly spent a joyful summer as a child. There they bump into Holly's childhood friend, Coco, her rich, inventor husband, Sterling Huckstepp, and their two kids, Edison and Newton. Soon, everyone is in the throes of a crazy adventure which involves a magical basement under Marcus and Holly's trailer that provides dream vacations for each person who opens a door. Edison is trapped in a an amusement park where all the rides are alive and catering to his every whim, Coco ends up in a cat-run spa, and Newt gets a never-ending party filled with rock stars and all the cute boys she could ever want. When Marcus figures out all this awesomeness is actually something sinister, he and Holly work together with one of Sterling's prototype robots, Prot, and the rest of the Huckstepp family to save everyone, including Jake, a long lost childhood friend of Holly's who's been trapped in his "dream" vacation for 20 years. Together, they manage to eradicate the evil world and its creator, Miss Molpe.
The physics and space/time warps involved in the story are done really well. Each time another twist was revealed, it makes sense how the author got there. There weren't any obvious logic-holes like there often are in stories like this. Marcus, like all good middle-grade heroes, is very smart and often figures out just what the group needs to know in the nick of time. Sterling's work as a scientist and inventor often saves the day as well; his knowledge of obscure mathematics is helpful. Each member of the group has their own strength to share as they wend their way back to reality and safety.
I really enjoyed this. When I first picked it up, I wasn't sure I would - the cover doesn't help much - it makes it look like some goofy 80s novel. (It was originally published in Australia with a much better cover!) But the story inside is great, and I wish I was 10 again, so my sister and I could both read this and then talk about what we thought about Marcus's adventure and what our dream (and nightmare) vacations would be.