A Charismatic Con Leads a Mad Middle School Caper
The Great Greene Heist
by Varian Johnson
Publication Date: May 27, 2014
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books
Kirkus, Horn Book
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Saving the school — one con at a time.
Jackson Greene has reformed. No, really he has. He became famous for the Shakedown at Shimmering Hills, and everyone still talks about the Blitz at the Fitz…. But after the disaster of the Mid-Day PDA, he swore off scheming and conning for good.Then Keith Sinclair — loser of the Blitz — announces he’s running for school president, against Jackson’s former best friend Gaby de la Cruz. Gaby hasn’t talked to Jackson since the PDA, and he knows she won’t welcome his involvement. But he also knows Keith has “connections” to the principal, which could win him the election whatever the vote count.
So Jackson assembles a crack team to ensure the election is done right: Hashemi Larijani, tech genius. Victor Cho, bankroll. Megan Feldman, science goddess and cheerleader. Charlie de la Cruz, point man. Together they devise a plan that will bring Keith down once and for all. Yet as Jackson draws closer to Gaby again, he realizes the election isn’t the only thing he wants to win.
Jackson Greene has swagger. Of mythic proportion. From the first glimpse of Varian Johnson’s protagonist in the halls of Maplewood Middle School, readers’ eyes will be peeled in anticipation. Though he’s “reformed”, you can sense Jackson’s new leaf hasn’t been turned over permanently. He’s on a slippery slope as far as scheming goes, and given the right motivation, he’ll be back in the game.
When his buddy Charlie de la Cruz comes to ask Jackson’s help with his twin sister Gaby’s student council election — Gaby’s running for School President — he turns him down. But the more Jackson learns, the deeper in he gets, until he is masterminding the “Great Greene Heist”.
There’s a lot to love about The Great Greene Heist. First, as the cover makes boldly clear, this a deeply diverse cast of characters led by an African-American boy. And the cover hasn’t been whitewashed! This in and of itself is no small feat in middle grade fiction. The kids who make up this book are lovably atypical. Their distinctiveness goes beyond their skin color. They are smart kids who dare to be different. Not only is Jackson a smooth operator, but he’s a baller who proves that even botany can be a cool pastime. Megan, the beautiful cheerleader, also happens to know how to program code and speak Klingon! And I have to say I had a soft spot for tech-geek wizard Hashemi who had me at “Kobayashi Maru”. That’s right! There are Star Trek references a-plenty! Varian Johnson tips his hat to Trek, and makes other popular culture references including Star Wars and Oceans Eleven.
Naysayers will claim this caper tale is far-fetched and they’ll be missing the point. This isn’t meant to be realistic fiction — it’s comedy! Saying The Great Greene Heist is implausible is like pointing out that no group of sane adults could be as dysfunctional and wacko as the cast of Seinfeld. Don’t rain on the parade. Sit back and remember what it was like to be a kid with a head full of dreams and schemes. And enjoy watching a grand plan play out!
— Dawn Teresa
4 of 5 Hearts. A Charismatic Con Leads a Mad Middle School Caper.
In Varian Johnson’s The Great Greene Heist, Jackson Greene’s real life exploits are things of which middle school boys dream. Readers who like mystery, suspense, and humor, with a dash of comeuppance, will gobble this up. And when they’ve finished and seen the whole design come to fruition, they’ll want to read it again!
*Disclosure of Material Connection: I would like to thank Arthur A. Levine Books and NetGalley for allowing me access to the title. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”