Friday, May 30, 2014

Armchair BEA MG/YA : Guy Friday-- The Great Greene Heist

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.)

18693375Johnson, Varian. The Great Greene Heist
May 27th 2014 by Arthur A. Levine Books
E ARC from; 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!


  1. Anonymous8:55 AM EDT

    First off I like your superhero name! Personally I think you also need a Rockstar name...cause you are one! Thanks for your thoughts on The Great Greene Heist. Have not read it yet, but will AND I could well land on the side of love, lol...I think fantasy sounds about right based on some of things you mention about the book!

  2. I have been looking forward to hearing your opinion of this book! I think you're right - it's fine, but it's not amazing. And I also thought immediately of Fourth Stall. Very similar.

    I read this article in The Atlantic that I thought was interesting: s-more-mediocrity/371639/ I think it comes to a nice compromise between "this is the best book ever" and "this book's diversity is important."

  3. Good points about the book! I don't read much Middle Grade or, currently, know any one in that age bracket, so I'll skip this one. I'll pick up Stormbreaker instead!

  4. I'll check this one out--I missed the buzz, so that's good, I think... This review made me curious.

    I like your superhero name, too :-)

  5. Ehhh, unrealistic but fantastic, fantastic is good :D I've never heard of this one!

    Thanks for visiting my blog!

    Alyssa @ The Eater of Books!

  6. Anonymous3:56 AM EDT

    Your knowledge of the target readership is something g it seems this author would have benefited from getting before writing this book. You'd have thought some basic research would have helped avoid the I probabilities in the plot.

  7. Quote:
    "Your average 12 year old will not only believe that these things can happen, but will hope that they do! "
    Of course, reading (like watching a movie or a TV show) most of the time requires that infamous suspension of disbelief Coleridge talked about. On the other hand, I suppose there should be some resemblance of truth, even in a MG book. Or at least it would be better not to fill the book with unrealistic things, but just stick to a minimum of them ;).

    Your blog's aim is quite unique, and I'm sure you are a huge help for your students. Though I do believe you when you say it can be exhausting!

  8. Anonymous8:56 AM EDT

    I love this post, Read-a-tron. Tee hee hee. This sounds great. I will be sure to pass it along to the MG in my life.

  9. I haven't read this one so I don't know how I feel about it yet. But boy howdy do I understand "Everyone else loves this so what on earth am I missing?" Or the flip side. Stick with your instincts. They serve you well. ;)