Though it lacks the zany humor of Wayside School and heart and driving plot of Holes, Sachar's ability to make the reader care about his characters and their fates comes through. The problems David faces-- such as drifting apart from old friends challenges talking with the girl he likes, and struggling to find his place at school-- are ones any kid can relate to...with the added challenge of a potential curse spicing up the storyline.
This book will be best appreciated by late elementary and early middle grade students.
Cadel finds himself working with another set of entertaining characters with unusual talents, and though it can be occasionally challenging to keep track of the many new faces, the reader still cares about their fates. Sections of the book, particularly in the middle third, are slow-paced, but the story picks up with the remarkably unpredictable climax. Genius Squad is set apart from other teen adventurer stories by the way it deals with the complications that can come with family-- be it made up of blood relations or just people who care.
Both boys and girls in middle school and lower high school grades will eat up this action-adventure story.
O'Connor perfectly captures the voice of her enthusiastically fabulous protagonist, and readers will find themselves learning the tricks to living fancy (e.g. wearing lacy socks, always choosing sprinkles) along with Nancy's family.
The real joy of this book, though, are Glasser's amazingly detailed watercolor illustrations. The vivacity of Nancy leaps off the page thanks to her expressive facial expressions, multitude of accessories and baubles, and bright color palette.
Though the femininity of Nancy will likely turn off male readers, little girls will eat the story up and the multitude of details in the illustrations will help to keep parents interested through multiple reads as well.