I took a mini break from YA this weekend to read the middle grade novel King of the Mutants by Samantha Verant. It’s about Maverick Mercury, an alligator-like boy trapped in a wretched life as a sideshow circus act. He’s got gashing teeth, glowing red eyes and oh yeah, a tail.
Maverick’s only friend is his three legged dog, Snaggletooth, until the day he meets Freddie, a run away foster kid who thought life at the circus sounded like a good idea. But when Freddie and Maverick overhear the circus owner plotting to kill Maverick, both boys decide to quickly run away.
With smarts, creativity, and a tricked out motorcycle and sidecar, Maverick, Freddie and Snaggletooth escape to the unknown. They’re on the hunt for anyone who can give them information on Maverick’s deformities–even if it means venturing deep into the New Orleans bayou and meeting a real life Hoodoo queen.
King of the Mutants is wonderfully paced, full of action, and a super fun read. The only concern I had about it was the use of the word “midget”, which I believe is now considered a bad word. In the context of an evil circus, using a slur against people with dwarfism makes sense. But later in the book it would have been nice if three of the hero dwarfs, Darling, Mr. Black, or Mr. White, had given Maverick a gentle correction about this.
Word choice aside, the message of King of the Mutants, that every human being has worth no matter what they look like, is wonderful and delivered in a truly entertaining way.