The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Is this the start of a series? Will there be a sequel? I can't tell... and I'm not sure how I'd feel if it were Book 1 of [some number]. We're in a world similar to ours, but not quite. There's the United Isles, an archipelago where the United States now is, Italian food is eaten with chopsticks, the Scots have been routed from Scotland and need visas to visit, etc.. Most important there's some danger in Nebrask, creatures called chalklings in a Tower trying to overrun the Isles (I think - I was never too clear on that). Chalklings are made of chalk and are essentially dumb, needing glyphs of instruction before they do anything. Who creates chalklings? Rithmatists, who fight using geometric shapes, Lines of Vigor, chalklings and more, all using chalk.
To be a Rithmatist you have to be incepted on the July 4th of your 8th year and Joel wasn't able to do it; when he did get incepted there was a problem with the ceremony and he was ruled just normal. However, because his father was a chalkmaker, he got a scholarship to Armedius Academy, where he sort of goes to classes (turning in 9 of 40 homework assignments?) and instead sneaks into the Rithmatist classes (where he's not supposed to be). Then Rithmatist students start disappearing, with strange chalk marks found at each scene... and Joel manages to get into a summer tutorial with the teacher sort of investigating it all. There are Wild Chalklings, a student who seems to be able to create more sentient chalklings, chalk duels and research into new shapes.
Yeah, it confused me at times, too. Hence the 4 stars - but if you're a real math person you might get more of it than I did. Still, this is very original and will really appeal to boys (not that girls won't enjoy it but with a male lead, I'm guessing that's the target audience).
ARC provided by publisher.