Ernie EJ Altbacker has worked on several television shows that include Static Shock, Ben 10, Green Lantern: The Animated Series, and Spider-Man, among others, and he has written six Shark Wars novels targeting middle schoolers. He has now written a teen/young adult book titled Handy Andy Saves the World. Evoking the innocence and charm of the 1950s sci-fi B-movie, Altbacker’s story of a down-on-his-luck handyman who unwittingly helps fix an alien spaceship is an enchanting tale.
Handy Andy Saves the World has much to recommend. First and foremost, for a short novel, Altbacker creates believable and likable characters whether they be human or alien – well, the aliens that are meant to be liked. In particular, the main protagonist Andy is well developed and flawed to the point of being a sympathetic character that every reader will be rooting for, so that things go right for him by the last page of the story. The rag tag group of aliens are completely hilarious; Altbacker’s creative juices were working overtime to come up with such a funny dynamic group for the aliens. It was easy to chuckle at the shenanigans by the aliens towards Andy and how Andy initially embraces his good fortune as his life turns around with the alien’s fix-all tool. Although fiction, Altbacker’s imagination has created a rather realistic community in which the story unfolds. Like Andy and the other characters, the nuances of the small town ring true, especially for readers with first-hand experience or familiarity with that kind of setting.
The structure of the story is well done. Altbacker has filled his story with the right amount of descriptions and provided the building blocks – Andy’s mindset and position in the town – prior to him becoming involved with the aliens. There is some violence and some suggestive undertones, but for the target audience, it should be fine. As an adult reading this story, the pacing was absorbing and always entertaining.
Special mention goes to Hillary Bauman’s cover that complements the tale within the cover, as well as capturing the spirit of Altbacker’s story. It’s a sweet cover!
The fact that this is a teen/young adult story should not be a reason for adults to discount this book. Yes, it may be light fare for adults, but it will guarantee to entertain. Teens and youths will probably identify with Andy’s awkwardness and find inspiration to persevere, in spite of personal challenges. Maybe Andy will resonate with a few adults, too. It is easy to envision this story as a movie, thanks to Altbacker’s ability to evoke a visual experience from his words, and this would be a fun book to read out loud to kids. All that needs to be answered at this point is when is the sequel?!