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Review of To Catch a Cheat

johnson_to catch a cheatTo Catch a Cheat
by Varian Johnson
Middle School   Levine/Scholastic   248 pp.
2/16   978-0-545-72239-1   $16.99   g
e-book ed. 978-0-545-72241-4   $16.99

After his crew succeeded at foiling a corrupt student council election in The Great Greene Heist (rev. 7/14), Jackson Greene retired from his con-man antics. Until…someone floods the Maplewood Middle School bathrooms and hallways, and a video surfaces incriminating Jackson and his diverse set of friends. Blackmail? Revenge? Who needs this distraction when things are going so well with Gaby de la Cruz, student council president and potential girlfriend? (Jackson, the master middle-school strategist, has yet to figure out the logistics of a first kiss.) To clear their names, Jackson and “Gang Greene” are back in action. The smart, complicated mystery caper, reminiscent of the Ocean’s Eleven movies, Mission: Impossible, and The Westing Game (to which Johnson slyly alludes later in the tale), involves outwitting the school’s ultra-high-tech security system, stealing a final exam, and defeating an unknown mastermind. Back matter explains the novel’s various allusions to The Princess Bride, Star Wars, the Fantastic Four, Ocean’s Twelve, and other pop-culture references to geek out about. Sheer fun.

From the January/February 2016 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

About Dean Schneider

Dean Schneider teaches seventh and eighth grades at the Ensworth School in Nashville, Tennessee.

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