- Con Quest! by Sam Maggs
Maggs, Sam Con Quest! Imprint, 2020 [256p] Trade ed. ISBN 9781250307279 $16.99 E-book ed. ISBN 9781250307286 $9.99 Reviewed from galleys R Gr. 4-7
Twelve-year-old twins Cat and Alex Gallo totally know what they are going to do today: ditch their babysitting sister at the crowded GeekiCon and win the underground competition known as the Quest. Now, armed with a scavenger hunt list of challenges, they set off to gather signatures from popular artists, ask questions at panels with their favorite stars, win video game tournaments, and start sing-alongs with fellow fans, all while dodging an irascible security guard with an agenda of his own. Older sister Fiona, meanwhile, is out to bust them before they get her in trouble but instead finds herself making an unexpected friend, embracing the fun, helping with the Quest, and finding the confidence to accept her own nerdy self. The plot here regularly strains credulity, but realism will hardly be the point for readers who tag along on this gleeful journey through a convention-center world of comics, anime, and sf/fantasy fandom. The con itself creates the perfect setting, inherently safe but chaotic and tinged with just enough danger to bring excitement. The small but likable cast still creates spaces for racial, sexual, and neuro-diversity, and the story handles Alex's autism with sensitivity, Fiona's first lesbian romance with sweetness, and the security guard's exclusionary attitude about "real fans" with the critique it deserves. Chapters split the narrative voice between the three main characters, allowing the siblings to contribute their own perspectives while also broadening likely readership and appeal. With plenty of playful insider references for the knowledgeable nerd-culture reader, this novel serves as a solid introduction to fan culture for middle-grade readers.