Mutant Mantis Lunch Ladies! by Bruce Hale

Mutant Mantis Lunch Ladies by Bruce Hale book coverGenre: YA Horror
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Published: 2016
Reviewer Rating: four stars
Reviewer: David L. Felts

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It’s hard to read books like this as an adult. Although some might consider Juvenile and Young Adult as synonymous, I don’t. I see young adult as my 15 or 16 and up. This more appropriately fits into the Juvenile category, say ages as low as 8 or 9 and up to maybe 14.

When I was in that age range, in the mid to late 70s, my favorite books and/or series were Danny Dunn, Mad Scientists Club, The Great Brain, and similar. It might be my lack of experience with juvenile fiction in that there might be a lot of work like Mutant Mantis Lunch Ladies (MMLL) available (maybe R. L. Stine?) but it took me back to the type of story I read so long ago, a story where the kids really are the focus and the adults simply bit players there to support–or attempt to foil–them.

MMLL is the second book of the Monstertown Mystery series. It follows the adventures of middle-schoolers Carlos and Benny, self proclaimed experts in “creepy stuff”. When one of their friends comes to them claiming the school’s lunch ladies have been acting strangely, they decide to investigate, and sure enough, there is something even more than strange going on.

Kids are disappearing, girls and boys are being served different food, and the girls are becoming… different. I don’t think–based on the title–that’s it’s a giveaway to confess that the lunch ladies are giant bugs able to masquerade as humans, but will Benny and Carlos be able to do anything about it? Or will they become the latest victims?

MMLL is fast paced and fun and sure to entertain young readers. While it’s hard for me to judge being the jaded and cynical old coot I am, I think youngsters will appreciate the wit and humor and typical middle school shenanigans. Benny and Carlos are great friends, and that comes through in the story. It also manages to sneak in a little bit of speculation about how boys and girls are treated differently and how that can influence the way they grow up as well as some tips for healthy eating. Sneaky!

The only drawback I can speculate on is that with Benny and Carlos being boys, and the heroes of the story, girl readers might not be as enthralled. Nevertheless, MMLL is recommended for younger readers of any type, bug or human!

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