Middle school misfit Nicholas embarks on a wild adventure involving long-lost family heirlooms.
Nicholas is a science whiz, a music prodigy and a math genius. He has no friends and is bullied by almost everyone. His stillborn brother is buried in the backyard under a pine tree planted in his memory. Nicholas speaks to him via his violin and hears his voice in the air. He may lose this all-important relationship if his parents are forced to sell their home. His life is further complicated by the arrival of his ex-con, senile grandfather, whose rambling memories hint at buried treasure. When fellow misfits Jordan and Zeke, along with Jordan’s grandfather, form an unholy alliance with Nicholas, they uncover multiple secrets: a haunted house, a mysterious island, shipwrecks, gangsters and more. Convoluted clues, lots of red herrings, interference and danger from many directions all result in a not-so-merry chase—for the characters, though not for readers. As they careen from one mad adventure to another, the boys also discover truths about themselves and how to negotiate the morass of emotions and relationships that form the social jungle. Baker has Nicholas speak directly to readers in the form of annotations, using musical terms like “forte” and “glissando” to indicate voice tones. Nicholas’ voice is so earnest and endearing that readers will root for his success.
Lively, entertaining and satisfying. (Adventure. 9-12)