Happyville High: Geek Tragedy
Homeschooled Tyler’s idea of fun is using her dad’s lab equipment to build a proton laser. When her dad announces that they’re moving to Happyville, and she’ll be starting at a high school whose motto is ‘The more popular you are, the happier you become!’, Tyler suspects that she’s in for a bad time. Luckily, she meets super geniuses Ashley and Dylan.
Tyler will need their help to figure out why Happyville’s football players and cheerleaders are experiencing bizarre spontaneous body transformations, but first she’ll have to convince her fellow geeks to stop hiding in trash cans and face up to their bullies.
There’s a lot to like in this first entry in McLaughlin’s new Happyville High series. The characters are colourful, the dialogue is snappy, and the plot whisks along at breakneck speed. McLaughlin is particularly skilled at world building, and secondary characters like the overly intense football coach and the inept principal are a highlight. The broad, character-based humour works well, but the satire of youth culture that also runs through the book is surprisingly harsh, and perhaps more likely to appeal to jaded adults than to young readers.
What we see of Happyville suggests that there’s something delightfully off about the town. Even after the mystery of the body transformations is solved by our three heroes, there is plenty more weirdness to be explored in future books.