Now that the Axis Institute for World Domination has been blown up; the founder, Dr. Phineas Darkkon, has died; and Prosper English (who enrolled Cadel in the first place) is in jail for myriad offenses, Cadel Piggott has round-the-clock surveillance so he’ll be safe until he testifies against Prosper English. But nobody seems to want Cadel. Not Fiona, his social worker; not Saul Greeniaus, the detective assigned to protect him.
When he is approached by the head of Genius Squad–a group formed to investigate GenoME, one of Darkkon’s pet projects–Cadel is dubious Genius Squad can offer him a real home and all the technology his heart desires. But why can’t he bring himself to tell Saul what the group is really up to? And how can Genius Squad protect Cadel once Prosper English breaks out of jail?Buy on Amazon | Goodreads
The thing about secret teen clubs or whatever is that they’re only really cool if teenagers are the ones to set them up and run them1. When adults set up secret clubs for kids, it gets a bit skeezy. And anyone who lures vulnerable underage kids into doing illegal stuff for them with electronics and semi-nice living conditions is super suspicious! Why is why I had such a hard time with a big chunk of Genius Squad. The idea of a squad of geniuses taking down baddies is cool, but if you stare too hard at its nasty underbelly it makes enjoying the book a bit more difficult.
I kind of think that was the point, though? The nice thing about Catherine Jinks’ books is that they’ve so many layers to them. And Genius Squad in particular is nice and layer-y because you get such a good contrast between the skeevy adults and the ones who are actually responsible and nice and don’t want to manipulate children into becoming murderers/thieves/etc. And then you get lots of good stuff about Cadel and his emotional/moral difficulties in being a “good person” and so on! Any problems I had about Cadel’s 180 from baddie to goodie in Evil Genius have been addressed in this one– basically it’s just Cadel figuring out how to not be evil through the power of love and stuff.
Also there’s techno-thriller action/adventure things, of course. They kept the book from getting too slogged down and, I think, from getting too boring. I mean, I love character development and whatever but not for 500 pages and certainly not when it’s a whiney teenager doing the developing. On the other hand, I DID read it all in one day! Which I guess means it was pretty frickin’ exciting, after all.
The tone was more even, too, btw. There were still lots of characters with ridiculus names, but they ACTED less like madcap villains and more like properly scary real-world ones, so that’s good. All in all, Genius Squad was more emotionally satisfying than Evil Genius while still maintaining that exciting thriller stuff we all love. Plus, it was nice to have properly decent adults in Cadel’s life for once!
There’s one more book in this series (Genius Wars) and I’m for sure going to read it. It’s just that I may take a small break from Cadel and his issues beforehand.
Read: May 24, 2012
- see: basically every kids book from the 1940s ↩