A debut middle-grade novel about a boy, a blog and a mission.
Marco Polo Blackberry is just another student at Benjamin Franklin Middle School near Chicago—or is he? Marco is interested in the stock market, so he invests a bit of money into a secret account at a brokerage firm his father uses, and bam: He makes $10,000. After chatting with his network of pals around the globe via his blog, he learns about the problems of civil war and starvation in Africa. When Hakim, an African friend of one of his pals, begs for help for his hungry, dying people, Marco snaps into action, leveraging his $10,000 against the corn market and turning it into $500,000. Can he use his newfound earnings to help Hakim and his villagers, or will he be too late? The plot of Heller’s debut novel has potential, but it’s dragged down by too many secondary characters. The rambling story has the structure of an overwrought Rube Goldberg gizmo, and many, many pieces must fall into place before it reaches its climax. That said, Marco is pretty rad for a middle schooler—a millennial Ferris Bueller—and although he’s just a bit smart-alecky, his voice is spot-on for a kid of his age and intelligence. Many other authors have used the framing device of a child’s blog, and, in many instances, they use it incorrectly. Unfortunately, such is the case here: Although it’s charming to think that a child could create his own blog and network of international friends, he would have to be a very serious programmer to pull it off. Also, although Marco’s stock market adventures are among the best parts of the book, the description of how the grain and corn markets work may go over younger readers’ heads. However, Marco is an excellent role model for kids, and this book shows that one person can indeed make a difference in the lives of others.
An earnest and sometimes inspiring story of an extraordinary middle schooler.