This is the book that got picked to be the poster child for the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign. The librarian at my son’s school and the local bookstore that runs the book fair there were kind enough to agree when I asked if we could take pre-orders there for this book, as part of that. I don’t usually buy books by authors I’ve never read before, but I thought that since I’d asked for it, I should put my name on the list, too.
The Great Green Heist by Varian Johnson. Arthur A. Levine, 2014.
Jackson Greene is supposed to be reformed. His cons – however masterfully planned – have gotten him into a lot of trouble. The event from last year known as the Mid-Day PDA got him in so much hot water that the girl he likes won’t even talk to him anymore. So when the first people start asking for his help to make sure that very girl – Gabriela de la Cruz – wins the student council race, he says no. That’s until he finds out that she’s running against the mean and rich Keith Sinclair, who’s definitely pulling strings that shouldn’t be pulled to make sure that he wins no matter what. Once he gets in, he makes it clear that his plans are to make the school work for his friends and take funding away from any student groups that he’s not in himself. Only someone with Jackson’s skills will be able to steal the election back for Gaby, and he finds a very diverse group of students from around the school willing to help.
I’m glad that I was warned that there were a lot of people to try to keep track of. Usually, I expect the author to make the characters memorable for me without too much effort on my part, but since Jen at Jen Robinson’s Book Page said that this was tricky, I paid extra attention to the names at the beginning. Once into the story, it’s fast, furious, and very funny, with a group of very likeable characters. The villains are definitely one-dimensional, but that actually kind of adds to the fun in this kind of story. Jackson and Gabriella are both nicely developed – Jackson with his precise list of rules for cons and his seriousness about basketball; Gabriella with her devotion to the campaign and basketball. The kids felt older and cooler than I remember eighth grade being – but that might add to the appeal for middle school readers. It isn’t speculative fiction, but this is a very enjoyable book! I’m going to save it for my son to read in a couple years, as it’s just perfect for middle school.