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Nikola Kross #1

A Problematic Paradox

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Nikola Kross has given up on living in harmony with classmates and exasperated teachers: she prefers dabbling in experimental chemistry to fitting in. But when her life is axially inverted by a gang of extraterrestrials who kidnap her dad and attempt to recruit her into their service, she discovers he's been keeping a world of secrets from her--including the school for geniuses where she's sent for refuge, a place where classes like Practical Quantum Mechanics are the norm and where students use wormholes to commute to class. For Nikola, the hard part isn't school, it's making friends, especially when the student body isn't (entirely) human. But the most puzzling paradox of all is Nikola herself, who has certain abilities that no one understands--abilities that put her whole school in greater danger than she could have imagined.

343 pages, Hardcover

First published January 23, 2018

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About the author

Eliot Sappingfield

2 books62 followers
Eliot Sappingfield was last seen wearing a blue shirt and khaki pants in the vicinity of his home in Missouri. He is known to appreciate stories, science, and various other geeky things. He may or may not be accompanied by his wife, his two daughters (when they don’t have anything better to do), or a goofy basset hound. He is considered unarmed and not terribly dangerous.

His first novel, "A Problematic Paradox" will be out March 13, 2018 from Putnam Young Readers.

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5 stars
148 (41%)
4 stars
132 (36%)
3 stars
51 (14%)
2 stars
21 (5%)
1 star
7 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 82 reviews
Profile Image for Sean.
Author 3 books72 followers
September 21, 2017
Holy cow, this book was AMAZING!! So much wit and fun and crazy gadgets... and the enemies... oh just wait. I can't spoil it. Nikola is one of my favorite protagonists ever. Super-smart and knows it, totally cool and confident...

I promise, even the adults will find TONS to love about this book. It's like when you watch a really well-written animated film and half the jokes are written for the adults, but written in such a way that the kids think they got it. I can't wait to see where it goes.

I read an advance copy of this book.
Profile Image for Emma Ann.
297 reviews680 followers
March 2, 2022
A zany upper middlegrade novel with a distinct voice. A ton of fun.
Profile Image for Sean Randall.
1,896 reviews42 followers
January 26, 2018
"Warner started tapping out some rude commentary, and before long, the three of us were having a rather hilarious argument that sounded a lot like sitting inside a car during a hailstorm."

From the synopsis of this, I asked if it could be the next Randoms, the fantastic first kids book by David Liss. Whilst falling into a different bracket, and perhaps having more strangeness and less of the contemporary tropes, this still really rocked. A bit younger, mentally, than some others in the class, but highly enjoyable all the way through. More, please!
Profile Image for Ilsen Leon.
207 reviews54 followers
August 10, 2019
2 stars

I am really disappointed with this one. I thought it had a great concept but the pacing was so clunky, the writing style was weird, and the author trying too hard to make commentary that just came off as “Yikes” RTC
Profile Image for Mary Ann.
56 reviews1 follower
February 6, 2018
Great fun! I would love to see a sequel.....! Full review coming soon in Library Media Connection.
Profile Image for Becky B.
7,492 reviews94 followers
July 21, 2019
When Nikola's father is kidnapped from their warehouse/laboratory/home by the aliens who tried to get her to go with them from the school playground, she activates the emergency protocol and suddenly finds herself whizzed off to a school she's never heard of in the middle of nowhere Iowa. And not just any school. It's a school for extremely genius humans and parahumans so they can grow in knowledge and be in a place safe from the Old Ones (the aliens who grabbed her dad). With her dad gone and no trail to follow, Nikola has to wait till something comes in from her dad. In the meantime, she has to make a go of it at her new school. She's actually a little excited to maybe finally be challenged by some classes. She doesn't even recognize some of the subjects on her class list, which she finds thrilling. The thing she's worried about, other than her dad's condition, is making friends. She doesn't exactly have a great track record at the whole friend-making thing, and now she has a new roommate, new classmates, and a fresh slate. But when the school alarm system goes haywire and becomes deadly just after Nikola arrives, it is just the start of strange accidents and weird happenings at the school. Who could be behind them?

This was a fun new twist on the oddball going to the boarding school story. This school is absolutely wacky, and so are the students and teachers. Sappingfield has no problem with his imagination, and there are several things based on just enough real science to feel like tech or gadgets or science actually plausible in the near future. Nikola has a little problem with authority figures, which is very understandable since her mom hasn't been in the picture since she was tiny, her dad is a very absent-minded and non-emotive but kindly mad scientist so she's had to pretty much raise herself. Thanks to her genius status, most teachers and other adults in her life have treated her pretty juvenilely or just ignored her up till now. She has to learn to trust adults and the teachers at the School are rather wacky and weird themselves. I did like that Nikola learned some great things about friendship, and actually taught her roommate some good things too. (They were quite good for each other.) I loved the madcap adventures of going to regular classes with Nikola, and then the added excitement of how the Old Ones are trying to get at Nikola and the mystery of where her dad is gives the story an extra boost. Not all the mysteries or issues are solved in this book, so I was very glad I had book 2 on hand after finishing this one. Hand this to readers with great imaginations, scifi lovers, and those who like wacky humor.

Notes on content: About 3 mild swearwords. No sexual content. Violence is threatened and there are some bad moments, but the school has an excellent medical faculty and near-miraculous restorative methods so everyone ends up ok.
Profile Image for Rawan.
78 reviews
August 8, 2018
I liked this book for several reasons: One, it's the type of sci-fi that makes you literally space out of reality (which I truly needed these days). Two, it's a children's book, so if it's a good one (which it was), then it's fun. Although I'm almost 18, I like reading children's books because they're so different from adult books, they don't contain the cliche and drama, and they're made for a child's mind, a mind that has simple to no worries, and that's mostly innocent. The novel was seriously very fun and the idea was one that I've never heard before. The only comment I have was that everything was rushed at the end, and it felt like the story needed a completion. Other than that, I loved the book and I'll definitely make my younger siblings read it (when they decide they could read a word from a book without sleeping).
Profile Image for Beth.
3,173 reviews13 followers
October 20, 2018
When your dad's secrets catch up to him and he ends up kidnapped, and you find yourself at a boarding school with other geniuses (courtesy of his back-up plan, which he also kept a secret), what do you do? In this case, make the best of things -- find friends for the first time, discover the joys of learning, miss and worry about the lost father, and oh yeah, confront the evil alien at the root of your problems. The protagonist has a snarky, fun voice and combines wit and luck with great energy.
Profile Image for izzy.
11 reviews
April 8, 2023
this book was ok…
while the story flowed well and the side characters were well rounded, there were a few problems I had…
1) it never explains why the villains (the old ones) are so against the main characters? it was more of just “yeah, they hate us so, we have all this security so they can’t attack”…
2) the old ones felt a little demonic to be honest. im not sure why exactly but, they had that sort of effect…
3) despite happening on earth, the worldbuilding is shaky at best. we don’t know the backstories of why certain aliens are here, why they must stay hidden (other than that they sometimes have physical abnormalities (quite literally, as in being blue, having silver hair, or things like that)) and most physical laws are disregarded (which might really just be a me thing because i prefer realistic worlds even in sci-fi)

other then that though, it was ok
Profile Image for Megan.
97 reviews1 follower
October 22, 2018
I'm not exaggerating when I say that Nikola Kross is a genius. She's 13, but she's already an accomplished scientist. The only problem? Being extremely smart makes it very difficult to make friends. She's shunned at school for being the "weird girl," and even her guidance counselor suggests that Nikola try to blend in with the rest of her peers rather than being herself.

After an unsettling encounter in a park with some very strange-looking bullies, Nikola comes home to find out that her dad has been abducted, and the kidnappers are coming for her next.

The truth? The abductors are aliens with advanced technology and abilities.

She is sent to an advanced school for geniuses as a refuge. This is no ordinary school, but as it turns out, Nikola is no ordinary girl. She has abilities that no one can explain, but these gifts may help her save her father and the school.

I utterly loved this book. It was hilarious, articulate, and well-written. There were moments where I just had to sit back and flail at the cleverness of the language and worldbuilding.

I got to about 75% of the way through and was convinced I knew how it would end. Nope, that wasn't the case at all. My predictions were way off base.

I guess this book is going to be part of a series, because there are a lot of plot points that haven't been resolved at the end. Bad news is, this book came out earlier this year, and I'm not sure how long it will take for the author to write the next installment.

I loved this book, hence the 5 stars, but to be honest I think it may be better categorized as YA rather than middle grade. The vocabulary alone is enough to make my eyes glaze over, and I actually understood most of the words they used. I could only guess at what a 6th grade would think of all the science jargon. Though, much of it is hand-wavey sci-fi science jargon, so you don't actually need to know quantum mechanics to love this book. Think Rodney McKay in Stargate or Scotty in Star Trek. Does the science actually hold? No, but it sounds plausible to the untrained eye. That being said, those words can get loooong.

I loved how Sappingfield discusses the cultures of the aliens. To be honest, the worldbuilding was off the charts. I'm so impressed by the imagination and inventiveness.

I guess one thing I had an issue with is how easy everything came to Nikola, though I suspect there is a plotty reason for this that will be explained in the next book. I have a few guesses about who her mom might be (or rather, what species her mom is) that might explain her abilities.

I would recommend this book to students probably 7th-9th grade (if not older), especially if they are getting into science fiction and enjoy snarky female protagonists. I do think older teens and adults would also enjoy this book as well.
Profile Image for clara.
178 reviews
March 24, 2021
this book is definitely one of a kind and I loved the bean/wormhole scene
1,118 reviews10 followers
March 18, 2018
My name is Nikola Kross, and circumstances have dumped me straight into a war pitting humans and parahumans against the Old Ones. My father has been taken prisoner by the ancient creatures, and I now find myself in an advanced, secret school for geniuses. The school is in the middle of nowhere and is guarded inside a dimensional dome by thousands of robotic bees. Teachers and other students don't understand my natural ability to manipulate quantum agar, but many people would have been killed without it. Tabbabitha, the Old One who captured my dad, has been trying to figure where I am, but I have no idea why. My roommate and I have now discovered a startling and impossible truth. Somehow, Tabbabitha has gotten past the school's defenses, and it's only a matter of time until she finds me!

I was unsure about this book when I started, because it's a bit odd and wacky. Nikola had an abrasive personality, and her home in an old department store building was eccentric. The paranormals were strange and diverse characters with abilities and habits that take getting used to. However, the plot became more "normal" when Nikola was first attacked by the Old Ones. I appreciated that the author didn't attempt to explain Nikola's ability with the agar, but it became the main weapon and defense. All of the characters were highly intelligent, so you need to be prepared for descriptions of science concepts, computer talk, and far out ideas; Nikola's roommate took an afternoon to whip up a wormhole allowing her to quickly travel across the town. I appreciated the author's creativity in developing a unique and inventive setting and conflict. Overall, the book may not be for everyone, but I found it engaging and interesting. I recommend you give it a shot.
Profile Image for Elissa.
488 reviews6 followers
September 24, 2019
I don't read a lot of sci-fi so to me, the story was original in its mixture of items, etc. borrowed from other sci-fi worlds and fit into a boarding school adventure for kids. I would definitely not recommend this book to kids younger than middle school for cleverly cut-off profanity, one full use of the word "dumbass," and some sexual suggestion. I'm not a prude, but I keep on the lookout for this type of thing to be aware of when recommending to parents and kids. I was kind of surprised about it because after you read enough JFic, you don't see a lot. I also wasn't into the use of gender mix-up as humor (Ms. Botfly meets Nikola and keeps referring to her as a boy.)

I felt like some characters and their relationships to each other were hard to remember because once Nikola arrives at the school, so many characters are introduced and the school itself is a shifting mass of classes, problems, etc. I wonder where we're going to go in the second book because Nikola barely mentioned going to find her dad. Just fell a little flat.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Anita McDivitt Barrios.
947 reviews11 followers
April 27, 2021
Brainy Girl Favorite! This one is a fantastical romp through recent scientific developments as well as the MC's attempts to avoid being kidnapped, killed and tortured by an "Old One."

The MC is a brainy girl, daughter of an equally brainy if ecclectic dad, who flees Old One kidnappers and ends up at the Plaskington International Laboratory School, where her brains are ...par for the course. She's safe, so long as the Old Ones can't breach a barrier that's been in place for 50 years. Can you figure out how they get beyond it, before the MC does?

I have the sequel on my TBR pile.

Visit my blog for more book reviews, free teaching materials and fiction writing tips: https://amb.mystrikingly.com/
Profile Image for Lisa Lewis.
51 reviews
February 11, 2018
I'm not usually a fan of aliens and sci-fi, but this story hooked me from the first page! I love Nikola Kross and her spunky snarky attitude. She doesn't quite fit in at her middle school, being a genius and all. Then her dad is kidnapped and she is next. Nikola escapes and ends up at The School (for humans and not). It has hi-tech, wormholes, and a crazy intelligent student body. She works hard at school, at finally making friends, at trying to find her father, and trying to stay alive.
A Problematic Paradox is so good; I am praying for a sequel!
8 reviews
March 13, 2018

I think that this is the perfect book for all the science fiction readers. I found that this book has great reviews. I think it is also very cool that it empowers young women scientists. The reviews state that this is a perfect book of comedy and a higher level of thinking. I think it would be interesting to read this book to see if it hooks me. I am personally not big on sci-fi books, however, a lot of the reviews say that the readers felt the same and they all loved the book despite their hesitation for sci-fi. I would bring this book into my classroom.
Profile Image for Elizabeth.
175 reviews3 followers
January 6, 2019
A Problematic Paradox was engaging, entertaining, and extremely fast-paced! I enjoyed the story over-all, but did feel that it jumped from one life-threatening moment to the next without much in-between. This pace would normally bother me, but I felt as though Sappingfield still managed to flesh out characters who were interesting and endearing (Hypatia was my favorite!)

This quick read will appeal to many of my middle grade readers- especially those who are beginning the transition to texts with more complex texts, but aren't ready for super serious sci-fi.
Profile Image for Rena.
677 reviews2 followers
March 4, 2018
4.5 stars rounded down to 4. Really good fantasy - science fiction book. Nikola was a spunky and tough main character who was impossible not to like. She was a genius among geniuses and had to carve out a new life for herself among them. It seems that this book must be the first in a series as the key plot line was unresolved. I look forward to reading more about Nikola, her friends, and the unusual community in which she lives. Also, an honorable mention to Hypatia who was great!
August 3, 2018
I thought this was a great book overall. The ideas and concepts of the book were science based, but not driven over the point. The storyline is somewhat unblanced. This being there was a short introduction to the characters and what was happening. Most of the book was leading up to the climax, which was quite short. This was a fun read for me, and glad I could enjoy this shorter story. (This book is not in a a series)
Profile Image for Munro's Kids.
557 reviews17 followers
January 17, 2018
This was a fun and snarky sci-fi romp with extraterrestrials (some good, some bad), a school for super smart students, and a huge variety of wacky, dangerous devices. It does leave an open ending, so I imagine there will be more Nicola Kross adventures (hopefully they're just as fun as this one!).
- Emilee
Profile Image for Charlou.
1,014 reviews10 followers
March 21, 2018
Fun. A girl who knows she doesn't fit in and has no angst about it. So she tells the guidance counselor. But that's at her old school. before she was sent to this new school to escape the aliens who abducted her father. A school for geniuses who don't necessarily have to be human. What could go wrong?
Profile Image for Alice Kuhn.
234 reviews2 followers
June 19, 2018
Thirteen-year-old Nikola Kross's world is turned upside down when her father is abducted by aliens and she is suddenly transported to a special boarding school for geniuses, but things get even stranger when she realizes she has certain abilities that put her entire school in grave danger (from cip record).
Interesting concept, loved the strong characters.
111 reviews
April 14, 2018
I really liked A Problematic Paradox. I thought some of the moments in the classes were hilarious. Actually, many points in this book were funny. However, I thought the middle dragged on a little too long and only half of the problems ended up resolved.
Profile Image for Virginia.
127 reviews2 followers
May 12, 2018
I really enjoyed reading this book. It had some fascinating ideas for sci-fi devices/substances. I also loved the mystery mixed into the plot. The one thing I didn't like was the language. Some might consider it mild, but for a children's book I found it excessive.
Profile Image for Annette.
84 reviews11 followers
May 15, 2018
Amazing! I love the school and the other students. How many times have I wondered why some character with an ability doesn't use it in a practical way! Here is a book whose inhabitants use their abilities. Wow!
Profile Image for Sarah.
399 reviews6 followers
July 25, 2018
This one is going to need to be handed to just the right reader...that being said, I loved it. Sarcastic, witty and utterly absurd...it's Hitchhiker's Guide-esque for the middle school student. Give this to your snarkiest tweens and teens who aren't afraid to embrace their geeky side.
115 reviews
June 12, 2019
Fun sci-fi with a strong female protagonist. Recommended reading for all, but a breath of fresh air for girls who might be inclined to be interested in science fiction but who aren't interested in a boy/male POV.
Profile Image for Tory.
1,254 reviews28 followers
November 29, 2017
An insanely fun, snarky, zany, scienced-out Harry Potter!

"...when you stop looking for the worst in people, *that's when you see the good stuff.*" -p44
Displaying 1 - 30 of 82 reviews

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