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The Proto Project
Bryan R. Johnson. Candy Wrapper, $19.99 (232p) ISBN 978-1-940556-05-5
A middle school boy, his new friend, and a complex yet naive AI team up to defeat dastardly villains in this clever, fast-paced sci-fi outing by Johnson (Code 7) . Jason Pascal, 12, is heading to Recode Global, a tech company that hires “the brightest, most future-literate people in the world,” on a schoolwide field trip. For Jason, this is a chance to see where his mother, Dr. Shannon Pascal, works, and finally learn about her secretive scientific job. Dr. Pascal introduces Jason to Proto, a billion-dollar AI contained within a sportswatch body, which she created to assist people with the company’s inventions. Furtively hitching a ride with Jason, Proto quickly evolves from a socially awkward machine to one with feelings and compassion. Teaming up with Proto, as well as Maya Mateo, a classmate and new neighbor, Jason will need to keep his wits about him to rescue his kidnapped parents from a devious cybersecurity advisor and an even more mysterious client, Madame X. Johnson keeps the middle school laughs going in this action-packed, accessible look at the pros and cons of advancing AI and technology, a contemporary tale certain to intrigue and entertain young readers. Ages 8–12. (Self-published)

Reviewed by Publishers Weekly on 04/17/2020

Release date 09/01/2019