Monday, May 26, 2014

Review: The Great Greene Heist

Title: The Great Greene Heist
Author: Varian Johnson
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine
Pages: 240
Available: May 27, 2014
Review Copy: Digital ARC via NetGalley

Summary: Jackson Greene has reformed. No, really he has. He became famous for the Shakedown at Shimmering Hills, and everyone still talks about the Blitz at the Fitz.... But after the disaster of the Mid-Day PDA, he swore off scheming and conning for good.

Then Keith Sinclair -- loser of the Blitz -- announces he's running for school president, against Jackson's former best friend Gaby de la Cruz. Gaby hasn't talked to Jackson since the PDA, and he knows she won't welcome his involvement. But he also knows Keith has "connections" to the principal, which could win him the election whatever the vote count.

So Jackson assembles a crack team to ensure the election is done right: Hashemi Larijani, tech genius. Victor Cho, bankroll. Megan Feldman, science goddess and cheerleader. Charlie de la Cruz, point man. Together they devise a plan that will bring Keith down once and for all. Yet as Jackson draws closer to Gaby again, he realizes the election isn't the only thing he wants to win. -- Cover image and summary via author's website

Review: I had The Great Greene Heist on my radar due to Twitter, but I really got interested once Kate Messner started promoting it during the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign. It features a very diverse cast. Kate Messner set a challenge for bookstores and for readers. You can read about it here. I have enjoyed Kate's middle-grade mysteries and figured her recommendation was a good one. I was happy to see the title was on NetGalley and I finally had a chance to read it this weekend.

The Great Greene Heist is a high energy romp with many comedic moments. There are elaborate schemes, a few enemies to outsmart, and plenty of fun. The beginning threw me off a bit as the perspectives kept changing allowing the reader to get a sense of the many characters, but that settled down soon enough.

The book seems to be realistic fiction, but the author does stretch the reality. The middle school operates a little more like a high school with clubs that are budgeted and a formal dance. Also, some aspects of the heist are definitely pushing the bounds of believability. Heist is in that area of "fun to believe" instead of straight up realism. I think that's what adds to the attraction though. It's what a kid might wish for in middle school rather than what is there.

I can see this book becoming quite popular in the upper grades at the elementary level as well as with early middle school readers. Jackson Greene provides plenty of mischievousness and offers us all a great escape from everyday life. I've pre-ordered it for my school and look forward to sharing it with students.

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