Saturday, December 18, 2021

The Smartest Kid in the Universe Book 2: Genius Camp

Grabenstein, Chris. The Smartest Kid in the Universe Book 2: Genius Camp
November 30th 2021 by Random House Books for Young
E ARC provided by Netgalley

After accidentally giving himself super intelligence by eating scientist Farooqi's jelly beans of Ingestible Knowledge in The Smartest Kid in the Universe, Jake and his friends Grace and Kojo are back. Jake has just won a competition against Zane Zinkle's super computer, and is donating the $20,000 to charity. Zinkle, who has a tech empire that includes the Z Phone, was previously the smartest kid, but at 29, has been eclipsed by Jake in intelligence, and also in maturity. He's determined to get back at Jake and his friends. He sends the intrepid three to a tech summer camp (after Jake helps out the FBI with a thorny case), and says that he will adopt Jake's school. The first day of camp is interesting, and there are children from around the world who are also attending. After just one day, however, Jake realizes that something is wrong. The others are glued to their phones, and an app called Tweedle, and also seem addicted to the chocolate covered marshmallows that are readily available. Jake and his friends aren't all that interested in either, and notice how impaired the others are becoming. Thanks to Grace's extreme wealth (after finding a family treasure in the first book), Jake is able to travel back to his home and school and check on people, and is alarmed at what he finds. He is in contact with Farooqi, who is trying to recreate the jelly beans, having taken insufficient notes. Zinkle is not happy that Jake is messing up his plans, and kidnaps Farooqi. Will Jake be able to keep his extreme intelligence and save the day once again?
Strengths: Jake is Everykid: he was kind a of slacker, with a C average in school and not thebest basketbal game. The newfound smarts are exciting, but he really wants to use them for good. His precocious sister still makes fun of him, and his event planner mother is not immune to Zinkle's chocolate covered marshmallows, with amusing consequences. It's nice to see a character who is having adventures but also worrying about keeping his friends, family, and school safe. His worry that the effects of the jelly beans will wear off is realistic, and adds a realistic layer to what is generally a wish fulfilment fantasy. Zinkle is a ScoobyDoo type villain, but still a threat. This was a fun romp, and even brings in some shout outs to Mr. Lemoncello's Library
Weaknesses: It seemed odd that the summer camp would let Jake go home, even if the counselors were under the effects of jelly beans. Also, the FBI mystery seemed unfinished, and a little odd to have as just a side note.
What I really think: A bit more fantastical than Wonderland Motel series, but with plenty of humor, Genius Camp is a fun romp that reads quickly. It walks the fine line of goofy, so wasn't irritating to me, but is goofy enough that young readers will laugh a lot. The two book series would make a great holiday gift, and I wouldn't be surprised if more books are in the works. 
Ms. Yingling

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