Review – Pax and the Missing Head by David Barker

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Hello Everyone!

Today is my stop on the blog tour hosted by The Write Reads for Pax and the Missing Head by David Barker.

Thank you to The Write Reads for organizing and inviting me to join this tour. Thank you to Tiny Tree Books for providing me with a digital copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

If you want to read some more middle-grade reviews you can check out my review of The Pawnshop of Stolen Dreams by Victoria Williamson and my review of Frostheart by Jamie Littler.

Keep on reading to find out if Pax and the Missing Head by David Barker belongs on your TBR!

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Title: Pax and the Missing Head
Author: David Barker
Age Category: Middle-Grade
Genre: Science Fiction
Length: 216 Pages
Published: October 12, 2023
Buy the Book: Amazon
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Cover of the book Pax and the Missing Head by David Barker

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In a country beset by civil war, New London defends itself behind a giant wall. Inside the city, children are forced to work from an early age, except for the lucky few who train to be leaders in the re-purposed Palace of Westminster. 12-year-old orphaned Pax is brilliant at recycling old tech. He enjoys working on the verti-farms and just wants a bit of peace and quiet. But when that is taken away from him, his only hope is to pass a near-impossible exam and join the other students in Scholastic Parliament. There he’ll make new friends and new enemies. He’ll get tested like never before. And he’ll discover that not everything is quite what it seems under the mayor’s harsh leadership.

Pax and the Missing Head is a dystopian middle-grade adventure. This book takes place in New London, a country plagued by civil war. This is a book with a memorable main character, great friendships, cool technology, and some tense moments that make you want to keep reading.

I found Pax to be an immediately likable main character. He’s an orphan and an underdog. The odds are stacked against him, but he has determination to succeed. He’s the kind of character that you want to succeed. I also found him to be very clever, especially with technology, and I appreciated his problem solving skills.

My favourite thing about Pax and the Missing Head was the friendships between the characters. At the beginning of the book, before Pax makes it to the Scholastic Parliament, he really doesn’t have any friends. While at the Scholastic Parliament, he makes friends and learns all about friendship. I liked that Pax, Meghan, and Samuel all brought different things to their friendship group and I thought that Briony was a good edition to their group.

The technology in this book was very neat and I liked how it played a part in the story. I loved the two robots that Pax built and that they had a bit of personality that made them like family to Pax. Some of the other technology in this book that I thought was neat were the watches that mapped out the best way to class, the hover cars, and the drones.

Pax and the Missing Head takes place in a futuristic London, a country divided and plagued by civil war. I liked how the author twisted this familiar setting to turn it into something new and unique. This book had tidbits of information throughout the story that explain the politics and world-building in an easy to process manner. While politics do play a role in this story, as they do in most dystopian settings, they didn’t bog the story down. There were some dark bits in this book though, which might be tough for some young readers to process.

I thought that Pax and the Missing Head had some decent action scenes. There were some moments that felt very tense and I wasn’t sure who was going to come out on top. These scenes added a lot of excitement to the story and they made me want to keep reading.

One thing I wasn’t a fan of was the bullying in this book. Pax is a victim of bullying. His superiors and fellow workers at the workhouse bully him. Some of the students at the Scholastic Parliament bully him. Bullying is something that I find difficult to read and this book had a lot of it.

The other thing I didn’t love about Pax and the Missing Head is how familiar it felt. This book had a lot of familiar tropes in it; a chosen one type character, a boarding school with a point system, a friendship group, and a nefarious plot going on behind the scenes. There isn’t anything wrong with these tropes, but at times the story felt a bit too predictable.

If you’re a fan of dystopian settings and futuristic technology, you should check out Pax and the Missing Head and add it to your TBR.

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I attended the Faber Academy in 2014 and from that had three climate-fiction thrillers published (The Gold Trilogy, Bloodhound Books). I joined SCBWI in 2018 as I shifted my focus to a younger audience. My MG debut, Pax & The Missing Head publishes with Tiny Tree in late 2023. I live in Berkshire with my wife and daughter. I have a passion for stories, sport and boardgames.

Picture of the author David Barker.

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