I'm pleased to share my review for Chum, a new middle-grade adventure that releases today...
by Adam Glendon Sidwell
Future House Publishing
Thirteen-year-old Levi Middleworth insists he's got a Destiny, even if half the internet's tried to bully it out of him with a viral video. When a Hollywood executive in a trim green suit invites Levi to star on a reality TV show aboard a hi-tech pirate ship, Levi thinks his Destiny's finally come a knockin' a bit of fame is exactly what he needs to finally make some friends his eighth grade year. But almost as soon as they set sail, the games aboard the ship turn savage, and he and his new bud Holly must do everything they can to find themselves some Chums little round-headed autonomous toys since failing to do so means getting thrown to the sharks. With the help of Levi's long-lost television hero and a tech-savvy pirate crew, Levi has to rethink his quest for fame in an attempt to save himself, his fellow contestants, and every human being on the beach from a feeding frenzy of grisly proportions.
Last year, Adam Glendon Sidwell charmed me with his imaginative and superb middle-grade debut, Evertaster, so I was super excited to dive into his new middle-grade adventure, Chum. And, while I found Chum creative and entertaining, it didn’t wow me as much as I hoped it would.
Thirteen year old Levi believes he’s meant for stardom and greatness...but ends up the star of an unfortunate and embarrassing viral video. But when Levi is invited to participate in a new reality show aboard a pirate ship, he’s convinced his destiny is within reach. The contestants aboard the ship soon learn that they must find CHUMS, little autonomous toys, everyday in order to stay in the game. And the game is BRUTAL! Contestants quickly turn on one another and resort to violence and trickery to stay in the game. Levi soon learns that nothing is as it seems aboard the ship and the truth could lead to a bloody frenzy of an end.
Adam Glendon Sidwell is definitely a creative and enthralling storyteller, who infuses a great deal of imagination and humor in his stories. And Chum is no exception. Chum’s premise is wildly original and innovative, both action-packed and funny. There’s a lot I enjoyed about this unique middle-grade adventure. The reality show theatrics are amusing, while the pirate-ship-in-the-middle-of-the-ocean makes for a thrilling setting. The idea of contestants competing to find Chums and having to do ANYTHING to do so, is really fun and makes for an entertaining time aboard the ship. However, the overall execution felt a bit jumbled and disjointed. There are many twists and turns and, while pretty cool, they often left the story feeling too rushed and busy and, perhaps even too unbelievable or outlandish for even middle-grade readers to believe.
Sidwell fills Chum with a quirky, eclectic cast of characters. Levi and his new friend Holly are relatable, endearing young characters, who make for a hero and heroine young readers will want to root for. The other contestants are just as amusingly over-the-top and larger than life you’d expect reality show contestants to be. I only wish more time was spent on character development and getting to know these intriguing people.
There is one thing in Chum that I personally found hard to swallow and that’s all the shark hate. In the story, sharks are made out to be these evil, killing machines and, while this makes sense within the story and makes for a pretty thrilling ending, as someone whose favorite animal is the Great White and who thinks sharks are the most amazing creatures alive, this made my shark loving heart hurt :( Of course, this is totally a personal thing and I can definitely see younger readers enjoying this aspect of Chum.
My Final Thoughts: Overall, Chum could use with some story tightening and more development, however I did find it to be greatly enjoyable and full of fantastic imagination. I think its target audience will be charmed by its quirky premise, laugh-out-loud moments, thrilling action, and likable hero.
In between books, Adam Glendon Sidwell uses the power of computers to make monsters, robots and zombies come to life for blockbuster movies such as Pirates of the Caribbean, King Kong, Transformers and Tron. After spending countless hours in front of a keyboard meticulously adjusting tentacles, calibrating hydraulics, and brushing monkey fur, he is delighted at the prospect of modifying his creations with the flick of a few deftly placed adjectives. He's been eating food since age 7, so feels very qualified to write this book. He once showed a famous movie star where the bathroom was. Adam currently lives in Los Angeles, where he can't wait to fall into the sea.