Math, chemistry and a little physics look to defeat midway games at a Florida theme park.
Pleased to be asked to join a group of smart, interesting kids to work on a secret project, sixth-grader Charlie “Numbers” Lewis goes along with a plan to win a contest at Incredo Land. Thriller-writer Mezrich brings themes he’s used in popular adult titles including Bringing Down the House (2002) to his first middle-grade foray. Charlie has a perfectly good group of long-time friends, known as the Geek Squad (or Dork Brigade, or Nerd Herd…), whom he nearly abandons in favor of the Carnival Killers, led by two supercool seventh graders and a beautiful teacher’s aide. He spends all his free time practicing midway gaming skills and thinking about defeating the Wheel of Wonder so that when he and best friend Jeremy go on the class trip, he can win the park’s annual contest. Oddly, his friends don’t mind; when Charlie needs them, they step up to make his final triumph possible. The author’s breathless writing leans heavily on telling rather than showing. The middle school bullies are overdrawn, and the quirkiness of Charlie’s friends is exaggerated. There’s more sensation than substance in this page-turner.
Fast-paced and full of behind-the-scenes detail, this will be an easy sell to readers not too picky about their prose. (Thriller. 10-14)