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From the Zeke Bartholomew series, volume 1

by Jason Pinter

Age Range: 11 - 13

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 2011
ISBN: 978-1-4022-5755-1
Publisher: Sourcebooks

A geeky seventh grader's fantasies about becoming a "kick-butt spy" all come true when a new classmate clad in a business suit and mirror shades moves in next door.

Intrigued by the advent of sneering, hypercool "Derek Lance," Zeke does the logical thing and sneaks out that night to go through his new neighbor's garbage-whereupon he's picked up by a carload of plug uglies who mistake him for Lance. Zeke is interrogated about codes for something called "SirEebro," attacked by a mutant fire monster whose veins run with lava, rescued by a hot (if sharp-tongued) teenaged operative from SNURP ("The Strategic National Underground Reconnaissance Project") named Sparrow and catapulted into a desperate effort to scotch the evil scheme of costumed mastermind Mr. Le Carré. This evildoer plans to enslave humanity from an underground fortress with sound waves buried in a music video. Pinter, a writer of adult thrillers, keeps the action cranked up to full speed, but the "spy" and "superhero" tropes mix uneasily, and the characters seem labored. Unfortunately, this applies most notably to Zeke, who paradoxically maps himself at length as the familiar scorned, nonathletic, typecast suburban nerd but then goes on to display not only bottomless reserves of cool-headed pluck but also a secret underground lab of his own filled with fantastic techno-spy inventions.

Headlong fun (with at least one sequel on the way), but readers will really have to work hard to suspend disbelief. (Thriller. 11-13)