Friday, October 30, 2020

The Smartest Kid in the Universe

Grabenstein, Chris. The Smartest Kid in the Universe
November 3rd 2020 by Random House Books for Young
E ARC provided by Netgalley

Jake goes to Riverview Middle School, where he is a lackluster student content with his C average. The school itself is also lackluster, and the principal, Mrs. Malvolio, is more concerned with letting it disintegrate so the property can be sold to her uncle for luxury condominiums. Jake's mother is an event planner at the Imperial Marquis Hotel, and when the two don't want to cook dinner, they take a bus and get banquet food from the hotel workers who know them. They are waiting for their dinner when Dr. Blackbridge is giving a talk on Ingetible Intelligence, and Jake eats a quantity of jelly beans. These were made by a graduate student named Farooqi who hoped to get Dr. Blackbridge's attention-- they were prototypes of nanoprogrammed capsules that make learning much easier. Suddenly, Jake is spitting out facts and even getting onto the school Quiz Bowl team. This is fine with him, because he has a huge crush on Grace Garcia. Her uncle is the school custodian, and also holds knowledge about a pirate treasure linked back to their family in Cuba. He's fired briefly by the principal, who hopes that the resulting chaos in the school will further its decline. Jake also finds himself being approached by the military to break codes, and the FBI, which brings him further notoriety but also undermines his position on the Quiz Bowl team when he is framed for cheating. Eventually, he and Grace decide to look for the pirate treasure and find themselves in a race against Principal Malvolio. Will Jake be able to use his new intelligence to save the day?
Strengths: Don't we all wish there was ingestible intelligence? Librarians would take book pills like vitamins! I thought the scientific explanations were really well done; almost had me believing that this could be real, and I was worried through the whole book that the effects would wear off like in Keyes' Flowers for Algernon (1966)! I enjoyed Grace, who was super smart and generally a great person to have on your side, and Kojo was a lot of fun, with his random quoting of 1970s spy television! The portrayal of a Quiz Bowl team was good to see. This was fast paced, humorous, and a lot of goofy fun.
Weaknesses: I wish we had seen more of Emma; there should be more siblings in middle grade lit. I wasn't a fan of Mrs. Malvolio; over the top villiany makes books seem unbelievable. A principal wouldn't have the authority to fire a custodian, and the school district would not close down a building and sell the land that quickly. 
What I really think: This isn't my personal favorite because of the Mrs. Malvolio, but it has a great cover and title, and it is the type of humorous books that my students can't get enough of. Will definitely purchase.


Ms. Yingling

No comments:

Post a Comment