Top critical review
Best for Struggling 13-15 year-old Readers (not 8-10 year-olds reading up)
Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on May 6, 2019
I think this book would be great for struggling readers who are in their early teens. A lot of the themes appeal to readers of this age category: 1) Adults are all incompetent. 2) For the main character, girls are interesting, mysterious, and a little scary. 3) Social hierarchy at school is consuming. The text is easy to read and follow, pretty funny, and keeps you engaged with cliff-hangars at the end of each chapter. The themes are older; the reading level is younger (maybe 4th or 5th grade).
I read this to test it out for my 9-year-old son, and I don't love it as much for him. First, the profanity is unnecessary and annoying. Maybe it hooks in the teenagers, but every time I read a curse word I thought about a PG movie with curse words added in by the editor at the end so that it could get a cooler PG13 rating. Second, I don't love that there are literally zero competent or inspiring adults in the book. The teachers put the students to sleep because they are so boring. The grown spies play right into the hands of the enemies. Even the main character's parents seem not to ask any questions about him being recruited to a "boarding school for scientists" and never being able to see him. And he's 12.
I might let my son read this, but not without a big conversation about the themes and discussions along the way.