The Extraordinary Colors of Auden Dare by Zillah Bethell

At some point I stumbled on The Extraordinary Colors of Auden Dare by Zillah Bethell at the library while looking at books with my kids and put it on my “to read” list. It looked like one of the many creative and interesting middle grade novels:

Auden Dare is colorblind and lives in a world where water is scarce and families must live on a weekly, allocated supply.

When Auden’s uncle, the scientist Dr. Bloom, suddenly dies, he leaves a note to Auden and to his classmate Vivi Rookmini. Together, the notes lead them to Paragon―a robot.

As Auden, Vivi, and Paragon try to uncover Paragon’s purpose and put together the clues Dr. Bloom left behind, they find out that Dr. Bloom’s death was anything but innocent, that powerful people are searching for Paragon―and that it’s up to Auden and Vivi to stop them.

I waited a while to see if I could get it on Kindle or audiobook through my local library but eventually just decided to read it in good old hardcover.

I enjoyed it but it felt a little thin in the world building department. Like the dystopian world that was the setting was just a backdrop or plot hook. I also found Auden rather annoying at times but given his age and circumstances perhaps that is to be expected.

Once I got into it, however, the plot picked up and the ending was enjoyable. Paragon was a fun character if you can suspend your disbelief a bit. And Vivi was a welcome contrast or juxtaposition from Auden. Their friendship seemed realistic and true to life; the rollercoaster ride of competition, emotion, and companionship.

The mystery of Auden’s dad and how it tied into the mystery of his uncle was well done too. I thought the second half of the book was stronger than the first (which is better than the other way around).

All in all an enjoyable read given the usual caveats regarding YA/Middle Grade fiction not aimed at me, etc. Would recommend for young readers.

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