Welcome! If you are visiting from Armchair BEA, you've come to a great place for Middle Grade! I review about ten books a week (my superhero name would be something like Read-a-Tron), am a middle school librarian who constantly talks to readers in the actual demographic, and feel pretty confident that I know just about all the new Middle Grade stuff out there. I review for Young Adult Books Central and am the Middle Grade Fiction Organizer for the Cybils.
I also am fairly opinionated and generally hate all of the award winning books. Working with hormonal laden middle school students makes me contrary-- sometimes when everyone in the blogsphere loves a book, I don't. It's not that I didn't like the following book; I just didn't adore it the way everyone else did, for reasons listed below. But one thing is for sure-- if you want to know about Middle Grade and #WeNeedDiverseBooks, you HAVE to pick up a copy of this. Just not from Amazon, unless you like in the wilds of Montana where there are no bookstores.
Whew. Keeping up with all the news and trends is exhausting.
Oh, and for my very favorite MG book, I'd have to pick Anthony Horowitz's Stormbreaker. Ten years, and I still have ten copies of it in very tattered condition. All of my students read it. Somehow, a 14-year-spy is completely believable! (Remember, your average middle school student makes no sense, either.)
Johnson, Varian. The Great Greene Heist
May 27th 2014
by Arthur A. Levine Books
E ARC from Netgalley.com; copy also from Young Adult Books Central and reviewed there.
Jackson Greene, who learned cons from his grandfather and who has followed in his older brother's footsteps in perpetrating them, has given up his life of crime. He's run awful of Keith Sinclair, but now finds that he was not a good enemy to make. Keith is bound and determined to win the election for school president so he can funnel money into his own activities and take it away from everyone else. Keith's rich father has bribed the principal to make this happen. Still, when Jackson decides that the best way to avoid his groups losing money is to have his former girlfriend, Gaby, run, he has a lot of work to do. This involves a lot of friends with odd technical skills, breaking and entering, reformatting a Scantron machine, and a suspicious amount of money. Add to this the trauma of a formal middle school dance, and Jackson has his work cut out for him.
Strengths: This has gotten a huge amount of buzz, from a glowing review from Betsy Bird to a whole internet campaign from Kate Messner. Everyone is thrilled that there are diverse characters. The writing is fine in this one, and students who enjoyed The Fourth Stall will like this one. It's hard to find funny books for boys, so I will definitely be purchasing this one.
However, my head is exploding now because everyone else thinks it is so fantastic, and it had a whole lot of elements that always doom a book for me.
Weaknesses: This is the sort of book that I PERSONALLY find completely unrealistic. Ms. Bird describes this as a sort of fantasy book, and that is definitely the case.When I explained it to my daughter, she questioned if the author had been in an actual middle school lately. This is set in a suburb of Columbus, Ohio, which is where I am, so I had a hard time believing all of the following: A rich parent was bribing the principal; the secretary could get away with such racist comments; club funding was dependent on student input at all; there was funding for student clubs; children were able to break into the school; children were able to break into the office; the office had a super special lock; the office blindly agrees to accept a new scantron machine and have the old one taken away without any identification or notification from the "company"; there was a school president, and the election was a big deal; there was a formal dance at a middle school for which girls got formals and boys rented tuxes.
Your average 12 year old will not only believe that these things can happen, but will hope that they do!