Twelve year old Jasper is a Bounder. He may not quite fit in with the other kids in his class, but the very things that make him different also make him uniquely suited to outer space. In Bounders, Jasper embarks on his first space mission, where he and his friends soon learn that: (1) there’s a mysterious alien being held captive by Earth Force and its existence is being kept top secret, and (2) Bounders are the only ones who can use Earth Force’s new and classified technology, gloves that allow them to quantum bound without a ship.
Bounders is such a fun story. Middle grade science fiction, Bounders just has a lot of fun with the whole space adventure story. Jasper and his friends geek out over the special technology they get to use, and it’s near impossible not to get caught up in their excitement. It was fun reading about their training on a space station, which includes a pretty awesome set of chutes that zip you from one place to another.
The mystery of the captive alien was intriguing, as are the various hints that Earth Force may not be as heroic as they seem. A field trip to a planet feels especially shady, with an Earth Force aeronaut demanding to see a local community close up despite their guide’s reluctance. It feels uncomfortably like the entitlement of a colonizer, and it’ll be interesting to see Tesler unpack these dynamics later in the series.
The idea of tweens saving the world isn’t new, and there are lots of other books out there with the same idea. What sets Bounders apart is the sense of sheer joy Jasper’s point of view provides. You can tell Tesler is having as much fun writing this adventure as Jasper is experiencing it, and that just makes it overall such a delightful reading experience.
I do have some concerns with the book, mostly from some good points raised in this Goodreads review. The reviewer pointed out concerns such as the use of the Magical Disabled Person trope, the idea of eugenics being wrong only because useful characteristics were bred out, and the simplification of a wide range of neurodiverse conditions into a single skill set. To be fair, I also share in that reviewer’s belief that the author’s heart is in the right place. As well, I’ll be honest: I don’t know if I would have caught this had I not read that review, but having read it, I admit it affected my experience of the book, and I think these are important points to raise.
Thanks to Simon and Schuster Canada for an advance reading copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.