Friday, April 3, 2015

The Great Greene Heist by Varian Johnson, 2014

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Saving the school -- one con at a time.
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.

(240 pages)

I deliberated about even writing a review for this one, because I read it so quickly. It's not the best book I've ever read or the worst, just somewhere in the unmemorable middle. I'll mainly keep track of it as a recommendation for fans of Gordon Korman, Dan Gutman, and the like, but I figured I should probably write out my thoughts as a reference for when I can't remember what I thought of the book.

Basically, it's Gordon Korman's Swindle series with some of the humor taken out, and some middle school romance added in. This makes it sound pretty bad, but it was actually pretty fun! It had a bit more of a straight-laced story than did the Swindle books, with a lot more focus on the plot and the driving conflicts than on characterization. I don't really know a whole lot about Jackson outside of his strange criminal mastermind-like persona and his love/like (whatever you want to call it) for his former best friend Gabby, who currently hates him. It takes most of the book for Jackson to get anywhere with Gabby, and I really appreciated that. It could have turned into a cheesy love-fest anywhere in the book, but it chose instead to remain palatable.

The characters were painted with pretty broad brushes. On the plus side, they're not caricatures. On the minus, there are so many of them I got them mixed up a couple of times. They have personalities, but they're kind of vague personalities that are really easy to get confused. Jackson was rather unrealistic as this genius spy-master who learned all sorts of tricks from his grandfather, a master con-man. The scenes with Jackson's father definitely made me roll my eyes and want to yell "You can read people's expressions, not their minds, guys, so bring the pride thing down a notch, okay?" You have to just take certain things in this book with a grain of salt, though, so I just sort of rolled with it.

Besides the unrealistic-ness of Jackson's skills, it was a fun book. It's just the sort of book I'd give to my brother - except I won't, because there's too much of a romantic undertow throughout the book for him to enjoy it. I wouldn't really recommend it to more mature fans of romantic adventure books, either, because the romance isn't as good as a lot of stuff out there (and frankly, I am not the biggest fan of middle school romance in general). However, if it interests you enough that you're still trying to decide whether not to read it, then you'd probably like it. If you do give it a try, let me know what you think!

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