Monday, October 26, 2009

I am a Genius of Unspeakable Evil and I Want to be Your Class President by Josh Lieb.

Oliver hides behind a façade of stupidity. Outwardly, he seems like a dullard, but in reality he’s an evil genius, the third richest person in the world, who happens to be running an international evil empire – from the secret cavern he built beneath his home (where he dons a purple silk cape – the color of royalty people!). As Oliver would say, cover is everything.

You’ve probably heard about this one – the title alone made it something people took notice of at least a year before its publication. And the author isn’t so shabby either – an Emmy winning member of the Daily Show crew who has also worked on the Simpsons. Humor, it seems, is in his blood.

There were several highlights for me. I loved Tatiana, a fellow student that is almost as evil as Oliver himself, she’s certainly a worthy nemesis (even though she wasn’t a fellow evil genius as I was hoping – perhaps in a sequel we'll find out she's the richest person in the world and also eeevvviillll?). I absolutely loved how Oliver commandeered the development of an inter-teacher romance by printing secret messages on a teacher’s cigarettes (and all for the belief that assisting such a romance would actually ruin his teacher’s life – which is perverse and funny all in one). And the scene between Liz Twombley and the Motivator was laugh-out-loud funny.

Fuse #8 called it the “ultimate wish fulfillment fantasy of any child more intelligent than their cruel classmates.” And it certainly is that. But at the same time, the ugliness of Oliver’s viewpoint wore me down, what was sarcastic and amusing in the beginning started to just sound sort of bitter by the end. His “evilness” began to seem like a shell he had constructed to protect himself, to build up a legend around himself - to the point where I really wasn’t sure if he was an evil genius or just a sad, lonely kid who had made up this entire crazy story. Honestly, at times it felt like a bit like it was an Onion article that went on too long.

I also had some problems with Oliver’s characterization, mainly because he often would speak as though he was severely developmentally challenged – not as though he were merely stupid. And to me that changed how people would have perceived him.

Probably though, my biggest problem is that I just didn’t like Oliver much. I didn’t particularly want him to win the election. Not because I was horrified by his methods, but just because I didn’t care enough one way or the other. I didn’t find him sympathetic enough to be a true underdog or truly wicked enough to be an anti-hero – either of which I could have rooted for. I loved Catherine Jink’s Evil Genius, I loved Eoin Colfer’s Artemis Fowl series, Stephen Cole’s Thieves Like Us, and I would die for E. Lockhart’s Disreputable History, so I think I’m predisposed to love these mastermind types of books, but this one… this one I just liked.

That being said, I think this one is going to be super popular. I know I’m going to make sure there are plenty of copies on hand for the kids who will be drawn to the title and cover, as well as the adults who will be drawn in by the author’s credentials.

Book Source: Tayshas Preview Copy

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