“Marvin Plotnik and the Sandy Rivers Hilltop Ranch for Wayward Youth, Juveniles, and Young Adults” – A Review

Art by D. S. Thornton

Plot Summary

Marvin isn’t your typical kid.  In fact, he’s a real smart-ass.  His antics finally force his parents to send him away – For His Own Good.  That’s how he arrives at the Sandy Rivers Hilltop Ranch for Wayward Youths, Juveniles, and Young Adults, along with a bunch of other trouble making kids.

However, Marvin finds out pretty quickly that the ranch isn’t at all what it seems and it’s up to him and the friends – yes, friends for the first time in his life – to find out what’s going on and then get them out of what seems to be a hopeless predicament involving aliens, time-travel, and almost certain death.

Marvin Plotnik Cover


This isn’t a book for everyone, but if you enjoy some humor in with your science fiction then you are in for a treat from D. S. Thornton.  In a similar stylistic-vein as Terry Pratchett or Douglas Adams, this book is witty and at times laugh-out-loud funny.  In many ways it is a coming of age story.  Marvin goes from being an outcast and a misfit that no one understands to finding a place where he belongs, where he is not only understood, but also appreciated.  I think people of any age can relate to that struggle to find your way, especially if you were one of those kids who didn’t exactly fit in.

I also generally enjoy sci-fi, particularly when the concepts involve space and time travel.  I liked the way the book portrayed those concepts.  The world of the book is easy to enter, mostly because it is just like our own at first.  By the time the sci-fi elements come in, you’ve already gotten to know the characters and as they discover the reality of their situation so do you, easing you into it rather than plunging you into the universe.

As a writer I enjoyed the unique literary conventions the author plays with through the choice of the narrator and the excessive use of parenthetical interjections and massive footnotes.  To some, following tangential footnotes might feel like an interruption, but to me they gave the book a unique flavor that made it stand out from other other YA fare.  I always think it’s fun when authors experiment with technique and write playing with literary conventions.  I read a lot, and I’ll read just about anything, so this variety is noticed and appreciated.  Because of the footnotes, I think the book is better enjoyed using the print version, though the Kindle version does a fine job of getting you where you need to be and then back again.  I enjoyed the unexpected choice of narrator, but I won’t give anything away.  Perhaps you’ll figure it out sooner than I did.

All in all, I would recommend this book for lovers of sci-fi, humor, YA, and adventure.  If you were a smart-ass kid you’ll probably enjoy it even more.


Young Adult, but definitely enjoyable for adults.


4/5 stars

Buy it


Kindle or Kindle app – only $2.99!

Full disclosure: I do know the author.  In fact, she is my aunt.  However, my review and thoughts of this book are completely honest.  If I didn’t have anything nice to say I wouldn’t say anything at all.  When I first read an older draft of this book I loved it and hoped it would someday be available for others to enjoy.  So go enjoy it and make up your own mind!


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