A Miami eighth-grader's class trip to the nation's capital quickly escalates into an international incident.
Wyatt Palmer wants nothing more than a nice, peaceful, informative class trip to Washington, D.C. But when his best friend, Matt, spots some suspicious activity on their plane, his dream vanishes—in a big way. Soon Matt is kidnapped, possibly by international terrorists, and it's up to Wyatt and the girl of his dreams to find him and exchange a deadly device for their lost friend. That all sounds heavy, but humor columnist Barry sprinkles enough laughs throughout to keep things moving smoothly. The novel's ludicrous scenario is met with an equally comic tone, making for a fast-paced, easy read. The author supplies these kids with enough smarts to get out of jams but enough vulnerabilities to keep readers engaged. At no point will readers be worried about the fate of the world, but whether or not Wyatt and his pals make it out in one piece is another matter. The book's shortcomings are few: the adult characters are as flat as the children are round, some of the slapstick goes a bit too far, and the final pages are overstuffed with expository "this is how everybody ended up" chunks of text.
A light, comic tone and more-or-less believable stakes make for a winning combination. (Thriller. 8-12)