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WANTED: potential trainee astronauts aged 14 – 18 for NASA mission. No previous experience necessary.
When 14-year-old English schoolboy Isaac (‘Zack’) Newton sees this advertisement in a magazine in his school library, he thinks it must be a joke. It’s going to be his only chance of fulfilling his life-long dream of becoming an astronaut, however, so he knows he must grab it with both hands – even if it means breaking a few rules. But there are huge obstacles to overcome: the school bullies who make Zack’s life a living hell and his VERY disapproving grandparents are just two of them.
When Zack does make it to Houston for astronaut selection, his chances seem to vanish to nothing. All the other candidates seem fitter, stronger and more confident than he is. But as he gradually makes friends – with oddball Russian Sacha, calm, kind Min, and experienced shuttle commander Charlie Evans – Zack finds ways of showing the NASA high-ups what he’s really good at. Perhaps he does have a slender chance of being selected, after all?
But Zack has also acquired powerful enemies, who are determined to see him fail. His grandparents are also furious that he’s deceived them, and are demanding he returns home immediately. Add to all that the fact that he can’t swim (which he hadn’t realised was essential for astronaut selection), and Zack seems to be heading for the greatest disappointment of his life.
In the end, though, it’s not the decision of the NASA selection board but the revelation of a long-held family secret that rocks Zack’s world. Can Zack overcome his grandparents’ opposition, the bullying and his enemies’ plotting? What is the mysterious Ares Project? And will he ever realise his dream of going into space?
THE ARES PROJECT will appeal to anyone who likes action/adventure stories, and to anyone who has ever had a seemingly impossible dream.
It is the first of a series of stories about the adventures of Zack Newton. The second book in the series is due to be published in early 2014.
THE ARES PROJECT was shortlisted for the 2013 Mslexia Children’s Novel prize.