by Elizabeth Honey
Knopf, July, 2002.
Hardcover, 256 pages.
Ages 10 and up
Ned Spinner is a thirteen year-old middle school student who lives in Melbourne, Australia who has a deep interest in reptiles and a talent with computers. Ned's email name is Remote Man. His mother is a research scientist who has been doing research on trees and tree diseases. Ned's world is beginning to fray as he postpones homework for surfing the TV for shows. His mother and he do not see eye to eye about his responsibilities. Then things become rapidly worse as Janet, Ned's mother, sinks into severe depression from the stress of her job, family finances and raising a son on her own. Ned is sent to stay with relatives who live in the outback of Australia where he renews his friendship with his cousin, Kate. One day a strange, well-dressed "cowboy" comes to buy aboriginal paintings, but appears more interested in the wildlife of the region.
As soon as Ned returns to Melbourne he finds out that his mother plans to go for an extended visit to the United States to stay with the mother of a friend in a place called Concord, Massachusetts. It is here that Ned meets a neighbor his own age called Rocky. In Concord, Ned again meets the "cowboy" and discovers that he is involved in selling endangered species to people around the world who are able to pay well for them. Ned, Rocky and Kate add a boy in Jamaica and a girl in France to their now international plan to bring this criminal to justice. Emails fly as the conspirators plan a trap for the man who rips animals from their environments and sells them to the highest bidder. This man who started as a Hollywood stuntman is a dangerous target.
It is easy to understand why Elizabeth Honey is one of Australia's most popular authors, because Remote Man is exciting up to the very last page. The chapters are short and events are fast-moving. The problems of growing up take a back seat when the young teens focus on a common enemy and set out to bring about his downfall. Remote Man reflects contemporary teen life with its inclusion of emails, chat rooms and websites which form a major part of the communication style of this next generation.
--Sarah Reaves White
Remote Man is available for purchase on Amazon.com
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This review was published in the September, 2002 of The Internet Writing Journal.
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