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Paraworld Zero: Parallel Worlds Book 1    by Matthew Peterson order for
Paraworld Zero
by Matthew Peterson
Order:  USA  Can
Blue Works, 2008 (2008)
*   Reviewed by Ricki Marking-Camuto

Paraworld Zero is the first book in Matthew Peterson's debut series, Parallel Worlds. The story is a nice mix of SF and fantasy for pre-teens and younger teens. Twelve-year-old Simon Kent has not had the best life so far. His mother died while giving birth to him and no one knows who his father is. Though his foster mom is very nice to him, she does not believe he gets picked on all the time by Butch, an older foster child. Also, Simon has had chronic asthma his whole life, making him dependent on his inhaler.

Everything changes for Simon one day when he sees Butch at school with a knife. Running from Butch and his two cronies, Simon ends up cornered in an alley. A mysterious, green-haired girl, Tonya, appears and knocks out Simon's attackers. Now the two teens are on the run from not just Butch, but the whole city. In order to escape, Tonya tries to take Simon to her world - a parallel world to Earth - but Butch steals her paratransmitter. Forced to travel in an archaic fashion, the two crash into Pudo, a paraworld devoid of electro-magical waves. Without the EM waves, Tonya cannot work magic, but it turns out that Simon can. Now the pair, with the help of their new friend Thornapple, must save Pudo from certain destruction while trying to end a thousand-year-long slavery practice, not to mention trying to get back to their home world.

Paraworld Zero starts off very choppy and full of stereotyped characters with whom it is hard to connect. As the story progresses, however, Peterson's writing evens out and becomes more gripping as Simon and Tonya fight giant monsters and social injustice (this part does tend to get a little preachy). The strongest part of Paraworld Zero is the ending. Peterson writes an excellent cliffhanger that made me excited about the next episode. As the series matures, it may get stronger and will probably attract devoted fans. Paraworld Zero is a good attempt at a YA fantasy/SF novel, but does need some work - especially at the beginning to get readers into the story (I have to wonder if this has something to do with the fact that Peterson started the story at age fourteen and then picked it back up over a decade later.)

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