Eland, Lindsay. 5 Times Revenge
June 7th 2016 by Greenwillow Books
ARC from Young Adult Books Central and reviewed there.
Adam is a fan of the well-turned practical joke, and he has a ready target-- Hill Parmer is a stereotypical mean bully, and his father is the middle school principal. When Hill plays "hide 'n seek" with Perk's developmentally disabled brother Tommy and leaves him sobbing in a locked supply closet, the two friends vow revenge. Hacking into the school database, they locate three others who have reason to hate Hill: Ray, who looks like he has more muscles than brains; Pearl, a violin prodigy who once dated Hill; and Dutch, who has a facial tic and has been mercilessly teased about it by Hill. Since the teachers in the school have proven ineffective in stopping Hill's reign of terror, since Mr. Parmer threatens to give them bad performance reviews which could cause them to lose their jobs, the gang thinks hard about what they could do, and decide at first that putting the principal's beloved 1966 Shelby Cobra on the roof of the school. They run into difficulties not only in coming up with a good prank, but also in their personal lives. Pearl's parents decide to get a divorce, Dutch's custodial grandfather is sinking into dementia, Ray's brothers and father don't understand how smart he is and expect him to join their auto body shop, and Perk has to care for Tommy since his parents are too busy to. In the end, the group must content themselves with setting it up to look like Hill has auctioned the beloved car off as a fundraiser for Tommy's school unit, which is underfunded because Parmer has been rearranging the budget so that other areas get the money meant for the multiple handicap unit. As a result, Hill is sent to a military camp instead of the camp he wants to attend.
Readers who enjoy Rylander's The Fourth Stall or Ferraiolo's The Big Splash series or books where students get the better of the school staff such as Barnett's The Terrible Two, Griff Carver: Hallway Patrol, The Great Greene Heist, or I Am a Genius of Unspeakable Evil and I Want to Be Your Class President will find a lot of humor in this improbable tale of revenge.
I really enjoyed how responsible most of the characters were. Even though Perk got tired of having to pick Tommy up from school, he clearly loved his brother and went out of his way to make sure that Tommy was safe and had a good day. Adam wants to get revenge, but decides that it's important that no one get hurt and no property gets damaged. Dutch tries very hard to take care of his grandfather, even though he clearly needs someone to take care of him. Ray works at his father's business without complaint, and Pearl is worried that her parents are divorcing because of something she has done.
That said, if I gave this book to a middle grade reader, I would want to make sure that I followed up with some conversations about what does and doesn't happen in real middle schools. I can't imagine that a principal as evil as Mr. Parmer would continue to be employed. Hill would not be able to get away with terrorizing his fellow students, even if his father was the principal. I also doubt that the school servers are secured so poorly that students can change grades and look up sensitive information about other students. While this sort of detail is used to be humorous, it would be alarming if it actually happened, and readers should understand that there is a difference between how schools are depicted in fiction and how they really should work.
I won't be buying this one. It's too unrealistic. A principal having a car that is so expensive? At least in Barnett's book, the evil principal drives a hatchback, and is clearly over the top. Parmer is portrayed too unrealistically.