Reviews for Steel Trapp: the Challenge

Booklist Reviews 2008 January #1
Steven Steel Trapp--so nicknamed for a photographic memory tight as a steel trap-- is aboard a train on his way to the National Science Challenge in Washington, D.C., when he unwittingly runs afoul of a gangster with ties to overseas terrorist organizations. Steve joins forces with Kaileigh, a runaway, and the two take it upon themselves to rescue a woman they suspect is being held hostage. Now they just need to figure out by whom, and for what reason, all the while dodging meddling adults--from an overprotective mom and harried nanny to various federal agents--tripping over themselves, even as they stay one step behind Steel and Kaileigh. As the plot accelerates toward the conclusion, Steel realizes, This is just like Spy Kids! a serviceable benchmark. Pearson's leap into the youth thriller market is less successful than the Peter Pan books he coauthored with Dave Barry, but this has imaginative plot twists, and is a kid-friendly take on a familiar genre. Copyright 2008 Booklist Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2008 February #1
Pearson's second solo outing for young audiences resembles his adult thrillers--sans all of the sex and most of the violence--even featuring Federal Agent Roland Larson from Cut and Run (2005) in a supporting role. On his way to the finals of the National Science Challenge in Washington, D.C., geeky teen Steven "Steel" Trapp (named for his photographic memory) finds himself in possession of a briefcase that contains clues to a massive heist being engineered by mob and terrorist groups. His quest to solve those clues in time leads to chasing and being chased by both the baddies and the Feds. With help from equally geeky accomplice Kaileigh, plus a number of huge contrivances, he stays a step ahead until the suspenseful climax. The author's fondness for clichés ("There had to be a way. There just had to be." "We're into this one on a wing and a prayer") and his habit of repeating information already given, keep this out of the top drawer, but it's a brisk scramble nonetheless, crafted in no fewer than 80 chapters of quick prose and featuring both a (fairly) credible crime scenario and an engaging cast. (Fiction. 11-13) Copyright Kirkus 2008 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2008 January #4

Steve Trapp, nicknamed "Steel" for his photographic memory, is leaving Chicago for a science competition in Washington, D.C., when he sees a passenger detrain without her briefcase. The attempt to return it ensnares Steel in a scheme to rig the lottery on behalf of a terrorist group, and gets him tailed by Roland Larson, the U.S. marshal from Pearson's adult novel Cut and Run . Pearson's smooth writing isn't enough to paper over the many illogical elements in his plot. Why do the Trapps take their large dog on a two-day train trip for a three-day weekend? Why has the boy genius, Steel, not figured out by age 14 that his father isn't a salesman? Moreover, the event that triggers Steel's involvement just isn't convincing: by looking through a tiny hole in the bottom of the briefcase, he spies a Polaroid of a woman gagged and tied to a chair; later, he is able to find the building where she's being held by matching its windows to the background in the photo. Pearson mentions some intriguing science (for example, the use of cell phones and microchip technology to make balloons fly) and the adventure has its moments, but his mystery gets derailed by a plague of MacGuffins. Ages 10-up. (Mar.)

[Page 69]. Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

VOYA Reviews 2008 February
Stephen "Steel" Trapp has a photographic memory, which is a blessing and a curse. On a train trip on the way to the National Science Fair competition, Steel unwittingly stumbles onto a plot involving a mysterious briefcase, a kidnapping, and the U.S. Marshals. Once in Washington, D.C., Steel and his new friend Kayleigh make more unexpected discoveries and are unable to let the mystery go. They begin their own investigation, which leads them into more danger, until Steel finds himself and a surprise guest in a fight for his life. Pearson does not sacrifice plot for characterization or literary nuances. The story moves along quickly, with an occasional short chapter and shifting point of view. There are conveniences that move the plot along as necessary in any good spy novel. Pearson pays homage to popular spies in tween pop culture, Alex Ryder and Spy Kids, by referencing them in the story. Students who enjoy the Alex Ryder books will find Pearson a solid entry in the kid spy genre, and those who are looking for adventure will be satisfied with the quick plotting, suspense, and eventual fight scene.-Mary Ann Harlan 3Q 4P M J Copyright 2008 Voya Reviews.