Friday, September 16, 2016

Jingle by Gordon Korman, 2016

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JINGLE: a light clinking or tingling sounds, often heralding the approach of Santa, reindeer, or the mysterious thief of a priceless possession . . .
Griffin Bing and his friends are NOT happy. Instead of going away for winter break, they've been signed up to volunteer at a local Christmas extravaganza . . . as elves.
It's not easy being an elf. Not when Santa is bad news and Rudolph is being played by a Doberman who makes up his own rules wherever he goes.
But being an elf is nothing compared to being blamed when a prized Christmas possession -- worth over ten million dollars -- is stolen right from under your nose.
It's time for these elves to get off the shelf and track down a Christmas thief!
(208 pages)

When I told my family I had the latest book in Gordon Korman's Swindle series, the response was two-fold. First, everyone said something along the lines of "wait, for real? There's another one? This series goes on forever!" And then, invariably, they asked if they could borrow it when I'm done.

You see, my family loves Gordon Korman's books. I'm the driving force behind this (i.e. I check the books out from the library), but my siblings will always choose to read the latest Gordon Korman when given the chance. They've had a little trouble keeping track of the Swindle books, though, just because there are so many of them - and the titles/covers sort of blend together after a while. I've read them all, though, mostly in order (besides accidentally reading the second book first), and I've heartily enjoyed every single one. Considering that Jingle is the eighth book of the series, you'd think that the novels would be getting pretty watered down by now. That hasn't been happening at all, though. I will say that in a perfect world I would prefer to see a tad more character development from book to book (the characters all seem pretty static at this point), but since I love the team members the way they are it's not too hard a pill to swallow that they don't change/mature over time.

I'm not here to talk about the Swindle series as a whole, though. Let's focus in on Jingle. I thought it was a really fun idea to have this installment revolving around the holidays, because it added a bit of an edge to the mystery when everything went wrong. No one wants Christmas to roll around with a missing Christmas star! Well, no one but Mr. Slovak, I suppose.

That brings me to the biggest side plot of the novel, the competition between Ben's parents. His mom is Christian; his dad's Jewish. The theft of the star winds up pushing them into a decorating competition (think giant Santas and light-up dreidels competing for roof space), and things get pretty out of hand by the end of the book. It's really funny, but also slightly sad - I felt bad for Ben, torn between his parents' two religious holidays.

As for the search for the stolen star, I thought it was an interesting mystery but maybe not the best the series has seen. Griffin seemed not quite as sharp as usual - there were one or two times when he made a call that even I could immediately tell wasn't right. I felt like there was more dumb luck involved with this one than in the other books, and the surveillance cameras the team often uses somehow felt more like an invasion of privacy in Jingle than they have in any of the other Swindle books. Characters actually discussed this, though, so I guess that was done on purpose. Just a hunch, but maybe the team will be forced to confront the ethics of their tactics in book nine!

There's not much more to say about Jingle. All of Gordon Korman's books are fun, and this is no exception. If you're interested and you haven't read the other books in the Swindle series, though, please go back and start at the beginning. You don't want to spoil pieces of the first seven books by starting with the eighth book in a series!

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary ARC of this novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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