Author: Sechin Tower
Summary: (goodreads) Sophia "Soap" Lazarcheck is a girl genius with a knack for making robots-and for making robots explode. After her talents earn her admission into a secretive university institute, she is swiftly drawn into a conspiracy more than a century in the making. Meanwhile and without her knowledge, her cousin Dean wages a two-fisted war of vengeance against a villainous genius and his unwashed minions.
Separately, the cousins must pit themselves against murderous thugs, experimental weaponry, lizard monsters, and a nefarious doomsday device. When their paths finally meet up, they will need to risk everything to prevent a mysterious technology from bringing civilization to a sudden and very messy end
Review: Expertly written. Soap is my favorite character EVER! Who knew circuitry and robots could be this fun? This book seriously blew all of my expectations out of the water. I openly acknowledged being a reluctant science-fiction reader, but Mad Science Institute is changing that and I cannot wait to read more.
The stilted dialogue in the beginning was imperative in creating Soap's shy and awkward character. Through the narration, we know she is a typical teenager, but struggles to outwardly make connections with people her age, because of her amazing genius ability. I could not stop laughing at how absurd Soap sounded trying out a formula she had concocted with which to meet-and-greet the students at her new school. I could practically see her squirming as she tried to act natural, and sat bewildered at why her carefully constructed plans didn't turn out how they were supposed to. Hilarious! Being a socially awkward person myself, I found a kindred spirit in Soap.
Although Soap is the nerdy outcast of her school, she doesn't fit any stereotypes perfectly, just like humans cannot be simply categorized and thrown in a rigid box. Victor is a little older than her and acts the part of the sulking, quiet intellect working intensely on his own mysterious projects, but we later get to know what goes on inside his head and he turns out to be quite the interesting fellow. Quirky! On the other hand, Nikki, the third student of the Mad Science Institute wears pink lab coats, commands attention, and can hold her ground pretty well in a fight. Their unique motivations and ability to defy easy description create the students that Dean, Soap's cousin, is charged with looking after. He is mostly brawn, but certainly caring. The book alternates from narrating what is happening to Dean and then to Soap, so they spend little time actually together during the story, but the family connection is there in throughout the novel.
Plot-wise, this book never has a dull moment. The villains are a bit obvious although they come in unexpected shapes and sizes. A plot involving the crippling of the world as we know it requires a huge conspiracy involving many people and lots of time. Soap grows in character doing things she never imagined she would do (chew germ-y, gritty, gross gum from off pavement) in order to achieve a sense of fulfillment. All the characters bring something to the table, and together with the thrill of the fast pacing, Mad Science Institute becomes a story you keep going back to.
Recommended to fans of Steampunk, science-fiction, or comedic drama. Although this book is in current day, there is an otherworldliness to it that will appeal to readers.
Rating: 1 2 3 4 4.5 5 (Dean's character wasn't as...developed as it could have been. Almost perfect.)