SPSFC Semifinalist Review: Debunked by Dito Abbott

After whittling our initial 28-book allotment down to three, my SPSFC2 team has received six more semifinalists from other judging teams. Our scores of these six new books, along with our original three semifinalists, will combine with with 81 other scores (nine each from nine teams) to determine the SPSFC2 finalists.

Each of the six books we’re reviewing this round comes with a recommendation from another blogger judging this competition, and almost all of them come with multiple strong recommendations from members of their first-round judging team. So keep in mind when you read our reviews that they are only our own thoughts, and they do not exist in a vacuum. And as always, remember that our opinions are our own, and a book not working for one or more of us does not mean it isn’t well worth reading.

So much for the standard caveats. Today we’ll be looking at a wild YA portal adventure: Debunked by Dito Abbott.


Jay’s Review and Rating

Debunked initially drew me in with a fun, easy-to-read narrative style, but by the quarter pole, it became clear that the narrative would rely on action sequence after action sequence after action sequence. There were plenty of wild characters to be found through the strange portal world, and wild characters and lots of action make for a book that will work for a lot of readers. But I just need more time to invest in the characters in order to really get into a story, and so I’ve decided to step back and let my teammates score this book.

Jay has declined to score Debunked (Not My Style).

Josh’s Review and Rating

The story tries to do two things mainly: first, be very humorous through a ridiculous setting, complete with footnotes as the story goes on that reveal more ridiculous parts of the setting, and second, to put our heroes – teen siblings Ozzy and Alex – into constant exciting danger as they find themselves on the run in a fantasy world that barely makes any sense and is constantly trying to kill them.  The problem is that the humor did not work for me – the setting is ridiculous but ridiculousness on its own isn’t funny to me anymore, it needs to be actually absurd in a way that’s amusing or funny, – and the constant danger just felt exhausting, as Debunked is not a short novel and our characters are a new dangerous situation basically every few pages, which makes each moment of danger have very little impact and just feel like more of the same.  There’s some character development here, so it’s not all bad, but there’s just not enough or any space for the characters to breathe, and it felt so exhausting to read that I just didn’t care in the end.

Josh has rated Debunked 5.5/10. For more detail, check out his full review.

Matt’s Review and Rating

Debunked: Volume One sets the reader on a fantastical adventure full of family and fun. Centered around the plucky grandchildren of a mysterious and oft-to-meet-his-demise adventurer—the grand world-building in Terravenum allows Alex and Ozzie to meet action and intrigue at a breakneck pace. A pace that will keep young adults turning the pages and younger children awaiting the next event of each night’s bedtime chapter. Fans of Harry Potter, His Dark Materials and The Phantom Tollbooth will feel right at home.

Matt has rated Debunked 8/10.

Sarah’s Review and Rating

Wild antics and adventure, with mystery, danger, and teen sibling MCs just as out of the loop and along for the ride as the reader…there’s plenty of fun to be had here. The writing is very descriptive and the scenes really came alive in my mind’s eye. However, I need a bit more meaningful connection to characters and themes to keep reading, and less action and humor for what felt like mere intensity purposes. I’m just not a good fit for this particular book, and given that, I’m going to rely on other teammates’ scores for this one.

Sarah has declined to score Debunked (Not My Style).

Official Scores

Josh 5.5
Matt 8
Sarah NMS
Team 6.75


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