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Young adult book reviews for ages 12 and up - middle school and high school students

*Genius Squad* by Catherine Jinks- young adult book review
Also by Catherine Jinks:

Evil Genius
Genius Squad
by Catherine Jinks
Grades 7+ 448 pages Harcourt May 2008 Hardcover    

Cast off, left to your own devices, wit and intelligence, living in various safe houses and foster homes? Do you find yourself under constant police surveillance because the criminal mastermind who may be your father and is the former head of the Axis Institute, an organization that taught teenagers courses ranging from espionage to methods of assassination, might be trying to have you murdered? If so, then you may have sympathy for fifteen-year-old computer genius Cadel Piggotís plight. Even if not, you are still sure to wholeheartedly enjoy reading about Cadelís exploits in Genius Squad by award-winning Australian author Catherine Jinks. This is the sequel to her marvelous, page-turning, captivating novel Evil Genius, which I had the immense pleasure of reviewing for this site.

You definitely donít have to have read Evil Genius to thoroughly get into and love reading Genius Squad - but if you havenít read it, you should, because itís incredibly well written, as is its sequel. While the former is about Cadelís discovery that his innocent-looking appearance masks a propensity to utilize his intellect for evil, the latter is about Cadelís reformation and attempts to set his life on the right course. To accomplish this, he becomes a member of the Genius Squad, a motley collection of teen geniuses who have banded together to bring down GenoMe, a company involved with gene mapping, among many more sinister things.

He starts the book at the Donkinsí house, a residence for disturbed foster children. His foster parents are kind to him, but he gets limited time on the shared houseís computer, and Mace, one of the other teens, is often mean to him (one way Mace demonstrates this is by urinating on Cadelís bed sheets). Detective Saul Greeniaus, who is assigned to Cadelís case and rescued him from Prosper English, the former head of the Axis Institute and possibly Cadelís father, knows itís not a good environment for the teen to be living in. He, along with Cadelís social worker, Fiona Currey, care for him and want to locate a better temporary place for him to live.

A coded message in an e-mail about a web site offering up games and puzzles for geniuses leads Cadel to Clearview House. On the surface, itís a foster care facility that offers one-on-one care for teens and appears to be the perfect place to Saul and Fiona for Cadel, at least until the question of his parentage is resolved. Itís also the perfect place, Cadel believes, for his good friend, Sonja Petrovic, from Evil Genius. She is brilliant, but also a quadriplegic with cerebral palsy who has to communicate with the aid of a Dynavox through a computer.

Unknown to Saul and Fiona, though Clearview House does offer very good care for the teens who live there, it is the front for the Genius Squad, the ones who sent Cadel the e-mail. Cadel and Sonja are promised fifty thousand dollars each by the man who runs the residence, Trader, if they join the Genius Squad for three months and assist in finding evidence to expose GenoMeís evil practices. Cadel is wary of the offer, having learned from his training at the Axis Institute that nothing should be taken at its face value. But the money would help out a lot in making sure his friend, Sonja, would always get the care she needs and deserves, so they both agree to the deal.

I had hoped, while reading Evil Genius, that somehow Catherine Jinks could come up with a worthy sequel to it, but I didnít see how she could. I wondered if the perverse joy of rooting for a hero who succeeds in life through doing decidedly evil things could be recaptured in a sequel, especially since at the conclusion of Evil Genius Cadel is in police custody and the Axis Institute is no more. Iím happy to say that Genius Squad laid those fears to rest. Itís an extremely entertaining, engrossing, fun read that teens and adults are sure to love reading. There is some profanity in it, though not a great deal; other than that, itís a fantastic book I highly recommend. Iím greatly looking forward to reading the third book in the series that Jinks mentions at the end of this book, which will be called The Genius Wars.

Young adult book reviews for ages 12 and up - middle school and high school students

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