Friday, May 30, 2008

GENIUS SQUAD, by Catherine Jinks

GENIUS SQUAD, by Catherine Jinks (Harcourt 2008)(ages 10+). In EVIL GENIUS, Catherine Jinks introduced Cadel Piggott, a child prodigy and son of arch-criminal Phineas Darkkon. At age seven, Cadel has already shown an aptitude for criminal endeavors and psychological manipulation. Through his father's influence, Cadel is placed into the Axis Institute for World Domination. By age 13, he's a star pupil and yet he -- in part through outside friendships -- becomes increasingly uneasy at the immoral nature of his activities.

In GENIUS SQUAD, Cadel is placed into foster care after the downfall of the Axis Institute. There, he is approached by and asked to join the eponymous secret organization. Soon, however, he begins to suspect there's a secret agenda...

Both novels are fun, entertaining, and suspenseful. Cadel is portrayed in a genuine and engaging fashion (even when undertaking rather appalling "pranks", i.e., felonies.). In GENIUS SQUAD, Cadel is less the anti-hero and more well-rounded and human, as Jinks successfully establishes his growth as a person. The novel additionally provides a suspenseful cliff-hanger to the forthcoming Book 3.

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