James Patterson has a formula for young adult novels, and it works.
In "The Gift," the latest in his Witch & Wizard series, Patterson continues the saga of Whit and Wisty Allgood, a pair of magical brother-and-sister teens on a mission to save the world from The One Who Is The One and his army of brainwashed New Order soldiers (cleverly described as the N.O. soldiers).
The One is trying to rid the world of any creative stimuli, including art, books and music. In doing so, he is turning everyone into loyal, zombielike followers.
Magic is banned above everything else. The One is the only person who is allowed to use it, and he does so on a regular basis to send people to the "shadowland," a place where souls roam eternally.
Wisty has a self-destructive streak. She talks back to her captors, makes quips in the face of death and sarcastically baits her mortal enemy. Whit is brooding, strong and introverted. But since "The Gift" is told from both siblings' point of view, the audience is allowed inside Whit's head, which humanizes him.
"The Gift" is action-packed, but very little headway is made. Each Witch & Wizard novel chronicles no more than a few weeks in Whit and Wisty's lives, so readers will likely grow up faster than the characters.
But if Patterson, who is best known for his Alex Cross novels, gets kids to put down their remotes for just a few days, then he's done his job.