Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Genius Squad

Genius Squad

Catherine Jinks
Fiction  Series
For ages 12 and up
HMH Books for Young Readers, 2009   ISBN: 978-0152066505

Cadel Piggott is not in a good situation. He is no longer a student at the Axis Institute for World Domination and he now knows that he is the son of Prosper English, a ruthless criminal who will stop at nothing to get what he wants. It does not comfort Cadel that much that his father is in prison; Cadel knows Prosper English all too well, and he fears that the man will escape and come for him.

Because Prosper refuses to publicly acknowledge that Cadel is his son, Cadel is now in a sort of limbo. His mother is dead, his history is shrouded in mystery, and no one knows what country he belongs to. So, for now, Cadel is living with the Mr. and Mrs. Donkin as a foster child. Two other foster children live there as well, one of whom is, to all intents and purposes, a very volatile juvenile delinquent called Mace. Cadel has little privacy, not enough computer time, he is under constant police surveillance, and when Mace is around he fears for his safety.

It is not surprising therefore that Cadel jumps at the chance when he is offered a place in a group home. He is especially pleased because the people in charge at the home have also agreed to take in Sonja, Cadel's severely disabled best friend. The thing that troubles him about this new situation is that he is told that the home is not quite what it seems. To most people it looks like a perfectly innocent group home for troubled teens. But, in actual fact, the teens and the staff at the home are part of the Genius Squad. They are working together to bring down GenoME, a company that most definitely is up to no good, and they want Cadel to use his formidable computer skills to further their efforts.

Cadel is excited to be offered this opportunity to get back to doing what he is good at, but it bothers him that he has to lie to his caseworker and to the policeman who is watching out for him. He cares for both of these people, and keeping the existence of the Genius Squad from them just doesn't feel right. At the same time, working to bring down GenoME does seem right. It is all so confusing.

The line between right and wrong can be very blurred at times, and this is what Catherine Jinks explores in this book. In Evil Genius Cadel had no scruples about lying, cheating, and having his revenge on others. Now, thanks to Sonja, he sees the world differently, and he struggles with his conscience when he knows that he is doing something that is wrong. Cadel also struggles with something else in this story; he wrestles with his own need to belong to someone and to be loved. It is a new feeling for him and it is one that he really does not know how to deal with. It is fascinating to watch him stumble his way towards an understanding of himself, and Catherine Jinks does a masterful job getting inside the mind and the heart of this essentially very lonely young man. It would seem that being brilliant and attractive is not enough after all. Having someone who really cares about you is far more important.

At the end of the story Catherine Jinks brings this episode in Cadel's life to a fitting and moving close, but she leaves the door open so that Cadel's story can continue.