Spam Alert by Robert Elmer is a clever, fast-paced, contemporary fantasy/adventure for upper elementary kids. The fourth book in the Hyperlinkz series, the storyline takes its main characters literally into the Internet. Don’t think Tron however. The novel has twists and thrills, but not the violence or menace of Tron.

Seventh-grader Austin has a laptop that enables him and his friend Drew to enter websites and encounter the people and events the sites talk about. This is not time travel though. Many of the people they encounter know they are part of a website and links to other sites are visible to the people who enter the sites.

The novel opens with the boys observing a tornado up close while they are in a website on tornados. Though this opening is a little confusing, it helps readers new to the series know how the book’s fantasy world works. The book’s plot gets going when a substitute teacher who seems to be more than that gives the class an assignment to write a paper on an interesting writer. The boys choose C.S. Lewis and using Austin’s laptop transport themselves to an Oxford website.

The boys are prevented from getting much information about Lewis, however, when a flood of spam–think sludge that talks–forces the kids to jump to another site. The boys find that they will need help to get out of the Net and home. They send an email and Ashley, Austin’s sister, sees it on the kitchen computer. She grasps that she must locate Austin’s missing laptop and turn it on. A tornado watch that quickly turns into a tornado warning hinders her attempts.

While there are dangers and obstacles in the novel–people who want to eliminate Christian material from the Internet, spam and a tornado, I don’t think the book is frightening. The author keeps a nice balance, giving the story suspense and thrills, but also weaving in lots of humor and interesting facts. As they jump from site to site Austin and Drew encounter famous and not-so famous Christians and learn about their lives.

I also like the way Elmer portrayed the kids. The main characters are junior highers with junior higher interests and issues—school, friendships, sports, etc. The kids are generally respectful to adults even when the adults seem villainous. There are some nice surprises in the kid-to-kid relationships. The main characters reconcile with a girl with whom they have had a problem and a boy who seems like a clueless goof-off turns out to be helpful.