Trying to go straight, troublemaker Jackson Greene succumbs to the lure of the con when it appears Maplewood Middle School’s student-council election is being rigged against his friend Gaby de la Cruz.
Although Gaby’s been angry at Jackson for more than four months, the two could be more than just friends. And her twin brother, Charlie, Jackson’s best friend, is worried about her electoral chances. So Jackson breaks rule No. 3 of the Greene Code of Conduct: “Never con for love. Or even like.” During the week before the election, a delightful and diverse cast of middle school students with a wide range of backgrounds and interests concocts a series of elaborate schemes to make sure the Scantron-counted ballots will produce honest results. While all this is going on, Gaby is busily campaigning and rethinking her love life. References to previous escapades are so common readers may think this is a sequel, and the cast of characters is dizzying. But the results are worth it. Allusions to Star Trek abound. There is a helpful appended explanation of the cons and their shorthand references as well as the Greene Code.
The elaborate bait and switch of this fast-paced, funny caper novel will surprise its readers as much as the victims. They’ll want to reread immediately so they can admire the setup. (Fiction. 10-15)