The Secret

Serendipity Book 1

Young Adult - Sci-Fi
325 Pages
Reviewed on 04/24/2023
Buy on Amazon

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    Book Review

Reviewed by Sarah Westmoreland for Readers' Favorite

The Secret is the first book in the Serendipity series by Topher Kaler. This epic young adult science fiction story begins on the planet Eden, where a long-established colony is forced to make an impossible choice to escape the destruction of their civilization. This choice leaves a crew of teenagers and older children to fend for themselves in the aptly named Lifeboat, a large space vessel that will carry them across galaxies and into a universe of adventures. Together, the crew of the Lifeboat will face impossible challenges and be forced to rely on one another as they attempt to solve a mystery that was millennia in the making.

Topher Kaler is a fantastic author with a gift for developing an intricate plot and three-dimensional characters. In The Secret, the Lifeboat is crewed by a tremendous cast of well-rounded individuals with distinctive personalities that are very well conveyed by Kaler’s writing style. Each of the worlds these characters visit is vividly described, yet we aren’t drowned in a lake of gratuitous description. The plot is well-developed and paced incredibly well. There is constant forward movement, but the transitions are smooth and logical. As a result, we don’t get swept away by massive leaps forward in time or bored by unimportant ramblings that don’t advance the plot. Overall, it is an enjoyable read. I had difficulty putting it down long enough to go to sleep, and I returned to it the following morning!

Scott Cahan

The Secret: Serendipity Book 1 by Topher Kaler is a science fiction action adventure. When the home planet of a colony of humans is approaching a cataclysmic event, there’s only time to build a single spaceship to flee the destruction. Rather than fill the ship with the colony’s adult leaders, they put their teenage children aboard. From there, we follow the youthful crew as they zip across the universe, discovering new planets, some friendly and some not so friendly. As time passes, the crew begins to see a strange connection between many Earth-like planets. The teens are forced to endure trials, traps, and puzzles as they explore. They enjoy themselves at first, but as the stakes get higher, every crew member is pushed to their limit and tensions arise.

The Secret is a fun read that keeps readers on the edge of their seats. The story moves quickly from one adventure to the next. The plot is clever with each new challenge being completely different. Topher Kaler certainly has a vivid imagination. The other strong point is the colorful cast of characters. They are a diverse group of teens and tweens who run the spaceship, each with a unique personality. Part of the enjoyment of this story is watching them interact with one another. The author does a good job of making each character extremely smart, yet youthful at the same time. This is the beginning of what looks to be a great series. I recommend the book to teenage and middle-grade readers who like exciting yet fun science fiction.

Jamie Michele

A refuge from the overpopulation and unsustainability of further life on Earth, the planet of Eden appears to be the perfect colony for humanity in The Secret by Topher Kaler, a middle-grade science fiction novel and the first book in Kaler's new series Serendipity. It begins with Apple, the ship crafted for the express purpose of transporting the parents of future generations to Eden. On arrival decades later, the descendants of the original transports are successful until the discovery that Eden will be destroyed by a meteor shower. The haven is no more, and survival turns to the old ship Apple and a new ship called the Lifeboat. The launches off Eden are successful but the ships soon inadvertently separate, and the Lifeboat, commandeered by a crew of children, is well and truly alone on its mission.

It's always fun to see the resilience of children and teens, as well as their optimism and ingenuity being placed front and center. The Secret by Topher Kaler does exactly this and rests the future where we have always said it belongs. Samantha is a firecracker of a leader and has a supporting cast that is equally well-developed. I would equate this book to a cross between the exploration chops of Star Trek and the coming-of-age grit of The Body [which most know by the movie adaptation Stand By Me]. I know this seems like an odd couple but the innocence of the latter provides the necessary counterbalance to the former. The kids are successful in turning things around in another colony but know that it is not enough to just resettle in a place already established; they need to know what is out there and what holds promise for their own futures. The novel is well written to a solid 3rd-4th grade reading level in line with other simplified science fiction books in the genre, and I think it is a solid start to a debut series.