The Great Greene Heist by Varian Johnson

Reviewed for this blog by Andrea, Windsor Library

Mastermind and con-artist Jackson Greene has previously sworn off tricks and schemes until he’s determined to help a friend win the school election. Ocean’s Eleven in middle school.

Damn, this book is fun and the characters are the highlight of this book. Lots of wise-cracking, smart kids who are determined to get what they want. Jackson is a great kid who embodies the strange, charming logic and actions of teenage boys. He’s clever, loyal, and earnest in his mission to set things straight for the school election. He forms a gang of like-minded students that looks not unlike The Goonies meets The Sandlot (look for Data). What’s unfortunate is that the ethnic and racial diversity of the characters needs to pointed out and praised because of how abnormal it is. But that’s been covered. And unfortunately, some of the other characters are little more than formulaic supporting cast members. The school principal in particular is a complete caricature.

The plot is detailed and intricate, hitting Westing Game heights of who’s-who and what’s-what. You have to keep up or else you’ll get left behind. Plus the school setting and familiar story make this a great choice overall for middle school readers.

However, when I think about the elements that make up an award-winning book, I think of universal truths, robust storytelling, and a certain timelessness. This book has a one-track plot with specific problems and defined outcomes.

It’s a great story with a wild ride through the dark corruption of school politics and the triumphant teens who persevere. It succeeds at being entertaining, fast, and endearing. But Printz? I’m not putting money on it.

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