A middle school con artist finds unexpected possibilities in…magic.
Middle schooler Nick Stringer can make as much as $100 from his classmates for throwing a test or hacking a teacher’s computer. When the beautiful and wealthy Hayley Millard comes to him for help, Nick and best friend Burger’s negotiations include something even more valuable than money: an invitation to her Halloween party. Things take a strange turn when a delivery truck driven by what looks like a bear almost runs them down as they are riding home. They investigate, finding a truck filled with magical costumes. While wearing the gorilla costume, Burger finds he can swing from the roof. Nick’s robot costume comes with laser technology and the ability to fly. Curious, the boys return to the truck to find the school’s bullies have also discovered the magical cargo. It is up to them to save the town and the hapless delivery driver from magic gone haywire. Unfortunately, while the premise is quirky, the execution is less than masterful. The relationship between Nick, the good-hearted hustler, and Burger, the slack-jawed sidekick, holds promise, but any authenticity is lost in a sea of predictable humor and one-dimensional characterizations. The depiction of middle school dynamics, likewise, intrigues, but the magic angle almost intrudes on rather than enhances the tale.
An unfortunate misstep from an otherwise solid author. (Fantasy. 8-12)