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Sunday, February 8, 2015

Masterminds, by Gordon Korman. Harper, 2015. $17.99 ages 9 and up

"I notice things other people miss. I think it's because I'm an artist, so I have an eye for detail. You know the smokestacks at the Plastics Works? You never see any smoke coming out of them. My parents say it's because the factory is a green industry that doesn't pollute. Steve (aka Dad) says they switched over in 1978. We're ahead of our time in Serenity."

Serenity, a small New Mexico town, is isolated from the world beyond its town limits. It seems idyllic ... there is no crime, every adult in town has employment, every family has a home, food on the table and a good life. While the adolescents we come to know are not always content with life as they are living it, that is not a lot different than it is in the rest of the world.

The first time that Eli allows himself any concern about Serenity happens when he tries to ride his bike outside the town limits and is incapacitated by pain and nausea. His friend has convinced him that they should explore an old ranch a few miles away, just as Randy and his father had previously done.

"Only pure stubbornness keeps my legs pumping. I'm in agony, blinded by the kind of headache that lodges behind the eyes like a glowing coal, pulsating and doubling in intensity. The pain is unimaginable. It's not just a terrible thing; it's the only thing.."

Everything changes when Eli's best friend is suddenly shipped off to stay with his grandparents in Colorado, without much of a chance to say goodbye. It isn't until Eli finds a note that Randy left for him that he begins to question what is really happening in their small town. They have always been led to believe that the Plastics Factory is the main industry and employs almost everyone in town. They have always been led to believe that what they are learning in school is what every other student in America is learning. He and his friends know nothing of war, or famine, or even negative thoughts.

The Surety, called the Purple People Eaters by the young people, is a private security group that protects the town and its industry. So, the Eli and is friends have been told. We learn, along with our  narrators, that they are so much more than that. When Eli finds Randy's note, it sets him on a path of discovery that is upsetting to say the least. With Malik, Tori and Ethan, he finds out that Serenity is in fact a scientific experiment devised by the man who claims to be his father. Some of the children in town have been cloned from criminal masterminds and are being raised in the 'perfect' environment meant to test the nature-versus-nurture argument.

They gather further information by breaking into the Plastics Works, and then set about finding a way out of town before Malik is 'disappeared'. In doing so, they realize there is a signal barrier set up just outside town limits that makes them violently ill and unable to go on. A new plan must be devised. Nothing is going to stop them now that they have decided to leave.

In this new series, Gordon Korman has created a cast of very strong characters, given them singular voices and written an action thriller that is so believable. It's dramatic and fast paced, but never seems evil. The ending is perfect, and will have fans begging for more about Eli and his fellow runaway clones.

1 comment:

  1. I really liked this! The third Hypnotists book is almost out, too. Does Korman ever sleep?