Review Detail

Middle Grade Fiction 136
Becoming the person that makes you happy.
Overall rating
 
4.3
Plot
 
4.0
Characters
 
5.0
Writing Style
 
4.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
 
N/A
What worked:
Young readers like the unusual and being contrary and this book flips social expectations upside down. Villain life can’t include any manners, compassion, or niceties and George’s own mother discourages these signs of weakness in him. Thank you’s, hugs, smiles, and laughs (unless they're evil cackles) are taboo. The expectation of evilness at the school makes readers wonder who can be trusted. George meets a ghost (the name for kids trying to become accepted into the academy) named Sam and they seem to have some things in common. Is there some ulterior motive behind Sam’s willingness to secretly offer advice or his willingness to spend time with George? George is in extreme contrast with his brother Alex who was a diabolical star at the school and is becoming a well-known, ruthless villain since his graduation.
George’s internal conflict of wanting to be an excellent bad guy while actually having a kind heart is at the center of the whole story. Readers will wonder if his kindness will get him kicked out of school, or even worse, find him dumped into Roster C. Helping others and being nice is instinctive for George so he must consciously stop himself from helping others. That’s very hard to do. When he aids others, he tries to do it sneakily, like an evil thief would do, and hopes none of the instructors notice these kind gestures. George really wants to carry on the family tradition of villainy excellence but he doesn’t like to hurt other people and he likes cute animals. What’s a potential villain supposed to do?
The story includes inventions and gizmos that will interest lovers of science or technology. The possibility of magic is also introduced early in the book and Sam has displayed a talent in that area. It feels like this book could become a series so I’m wondering if magic might become more of a factor in future books. Readers might be surprised to learn villains don’t have superpowers and use electromagnetic capes to fly. Sam gives George a multipurpose tool set that helps him unlock doors and disable electric fences. An evil-looking black, full-length, trench coat keeps George cool and covers the flame-designed outfit he likes to wear.
What didn’t work as well:
This will be a strange thought, but the publisher’s synopsis reveals too much information. The mission to stop Captain Perfectus, and George’s brother offering help, occur two-thirds of the way into the book. Publishers usually give readers vague hints about the book so this blurb mutes the awaiting surprises. I keep waiting and waiting for the plot to get to Captain Perfectus only to discover it doesn’t happen until there’s only a third of the book left. The book is still very entertaining but the synopsis doesn’t leave much room for surprises.
The Final Verdict:
The essence of the story isn’t unique as George reluctantly strives to fulfill family expectations. It’s easy to root for nice guys so readers should make connections with his character. Overall, the events move fairly quickly and I recommend young readers give it a shot.

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