Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Odd Job Squad

Fields, Karl. The Odd Job Squad.
EPUB received from the author.

Ander and his friends have a nice little business going at Marina Middle School. They will exact an appropriate revenge on a classmate if they have tormented someone. This is going well until one of the team, Shooter (a girl on whom Ander has a sizable crush), decides that seeking revenge is juvenile and she doesn't want any part of it. The problem is that Shooter is having trouble with the Stacia, who is running for student body president and Ander would like to get revenge on her. At the same time, a case of revenge against football player Dorsey goes terribly wrong, putting Dorsey in the hospital and Ander in the sights of someone who wants to see him and his revenge business go down. Because of these complications, the group has several adventures in San Francisco, tracking down tickets to a boy band concert and generally getting into more trouble than they are managing to escape!

Strengths: This reminded me a bit of Project Sweet Life, which is HUGELY popular with my students. There is always a need for funny books for boys, and this would be good for students who liked The Fourth Stall or Griff Carver. After reviewing both of those, I opined that I disliked situations that teacher would not allow to continue; a lengthy conversation with 8th grade boys at the end of the year indicated that they LIKED that in books! The diverse group of friends, as well as the spot-on romance, was nice as well.
Weaknesses: The first chapter tries to introduce a lot of characters and events, causing me to struggle a bit with the beginning of this book. When I have books like that, it is helpful to tell students to stick with the book until the second chapter because it will be worth it.While this is not available through Follett, it is available for $2.99 as an eBook through Barnes and Noble and Amazon and as a paperback for $9.99. Follett is now carrying Rex Riders, reviewed last week.

Klavan, Andrew. The Final Hour.

Sequel to The Last Thing I Remember, The Long Way Home, The Truth of the Matter

Charlie is in Abingdon Prison where he is managing to make everyone he meets angry, from guards to inmates of all philosophical persuasions. Add to that the fact that he is slowly recovering his memory and realizes that he heard Prince and the Homelanders plan a deadly attic. It's going to take place on New Year's Eve, but where will it be? How will it be carried out? Charlie can't remember, but knows that he has to escape prison and find someone to help him. When a group of prisoners approaches him about helping them escape, he agrees, although instead of killing a guard, he tells him their plan and makes it look as though he is dead. Once he gets out, his former instructor Mike picks him up, and they work together with Rose and others to pin down the exact plans. This is where the action really begins-- there is an air fight in a Cessna and a harrowing rush through subway tunnels before Charlie finds Prince heading towards Times Square. Can he intercept Prince before his evil plans are brought to fruition? Of course, but how he does it is what is interesting to read.

Strengths: There is something enthralling about prison tales, and the politics and violence in this will appeal to the fans of Smith's Lockdown and Solitary. The helicopter scene is excellent. The violence is always justified, and while a bit gory, is never too bad. A student liked the first two so much that he purchased the Accelerated Reader tests; I will definitely buy the next two books.

Weaknesses: I found the portrayal of the Homelanders to be boringly stereotypical. The second book tended towards annoying political preachiness, but this wasn't quite as bad. I don't think that students will be irritated by this, but this combined with the aggressive religious stance made it difficult for me to read the book; it took me over two weeks, and that's unusual. Still, I was able to remember the plot, which is a mark of good writing.

1 comment:

  1. I love your strengths and weakness. You hit it right on the head. I want to see if kids can write about books the same way.