The first half of LEO GRAY AND THE LUNAR ECLIPSE—in which young Leo enters a rocket ship competition and wins a ticket to a city on the moon but is then forbidden from going—doesn’t quite blast off at full speed. Instead, readers follow Leo on the seemingly humdrum punishment of checking on trees in the neighborhood. Though a slow start might often fail to keep younger readers hooked, author K.J. Kruk uses that time to establish the whimsical world in which Leo lives, where teachers are robots and jeans have become outdated. Kruk provides just enough detail that readers can picture this future New York but use their imagination to fill in any blanks.
Once Leo finally makes his way to Luna City on the moon after all, the book picks up momentum: There’s something sinister going on, and it’s up to Leo to figure out what it is, with the help of some new friends. Kruk introduces a quirky cast of characters who work together as a team despite their differences, piecing together a puzzle they don’t even realize they’re solving at first. This understated celebration of diversity is a theme that runs throughout the book—even the alien Grimlu goes from “other” to accepted in no time—and the author seamlessly weaves in the lesson without making it feel like a lesson at all.
As compelling as the story is, the most intriguing part is the author’s innovation throughout the book—Kruk creates not just a futuristic Earth, but a city on the moon and countless gadgets and gizmos to boot—and the curiosity that this awakens in readers as they journey alongside Leo. This is why it’s so disappointing when Kruk introduces Grimlu and readers realize that the alien, with his unique speech pattern (“Helps us? Did you hearsid THAT? Someone actually WANTS to helpsid GRIMLU!”), seems like a caricature of Gollum from The Lord of the Rings. Ever though younger readers might not get the reference, it feels unsatisfying after all the original thought that came before.
Despite this minor flaw, however, the book is an overall win. It keeps readers engaged and most importantly leaves them curious and thinking. Even the books ending remains open to interpretation: What really happened to Leo on the roof, and is he still the same?
LEO GRAY AND THE LUNARY ECLIPSE brings a whimsical, inventive future to life through a young boy’s eyes and takes readers on his adventure to uncover a conspiracy and save the world.
~Christina Doka for IndieReader