ARC provided by Sourcebooks.
Eleven-year-old Jason Steed inflitrates a young offenders' facility in order to befriend Andrew Cho, son of the Triad gang leader. At first he is harassed, but the he beats up the evil Watson and earns Cho's respect. When Andrew is released, Jason is sent into foster care near his house, and the two hang out. Jason starts to realize that the cereal being produced by Boudica, one of the Triad members, is highly addictive. Triad eventually finds out that Jason is a spy and blows up his foster home, killing everyone. Jason is sent to Spain with agent George Young's family and the daughter of a comissioner sympathetic to Chairman Mao, Joanna. The Triad is thorough and deadly, and attack the villa. Jason and Joanna manage to escape into the country, leaving such a path of devastation that the Spanish police accuse them of being mass murderers. They escape again, and Jason flies a plane to France, where they are picked up by MI6 agents-- who intend to kill them to end the wrath of Boudica and the Triad. Again, after a violent encounter, they escape, and go looking for Boudica to stop her. When will the madness end? Will Jason and Joanna ever return to their families? I expect there to be a sequel. The first book in this series is Jason Steed: Fledgling.
Strengths: Mr. Cooper has certainly listened to actual boys-- they are constantly asking for books with shooting and killing people. I actually had a boy search for the key word "violence" in the library catalog. The nonstop action and constant intrique and gore will make this popular.
Weaknesses: I was never able to locate a copy of the first book in this series, and they don't seem to be available in hardcover or even prebind, which makes them less than attractive for a school library. I found the fact that Jason was so young rather disturbing given the level of violence involved. Violent fifteen year olds seem more believable, especially when you add in the element of romance.
Happy Read Across America Day! I didn't make many plans, but next week I'll be reading aloud to the SSR classes.