I am really excited for this book to come out next month.
THE GREAT GREENE HEIST by Varian Johnson is an Ocean’s-Eleven-esque middle school heist novel, with a cast of characters that I love more than any I’ve met in a long, long time.
There’s Jackson Greene, the smart, charming eighth grade athlete and con artist who swears he’s reformed (and is mostly telling the truth). There’s his ex-friend-and-crush Gaby de la Cruz, the smart, socially conscious basketball player who gives Jackson a run for his money. She’s running for student council president against Jackson’s nemesis, Keith Sinclair, and when word gets out that Keith might be planning to steal the election, Jackson and his team of co-conspirators plan a brilliantly multifaceted, high-tech caper to try and stop that from happening.
This book is smart, funny, and a real page turner – and it’ll be loved in different ways by different readers. Writers will study this one for its craft. I have a keen interest in the way writers of all ages use mentor texts to learn craft, so much so that I’m on a proposed panel on this topic for NCTE in the fall. I was intrigued by Varian’s nod to the works that served as inspiration for this book in his bio. They included OCEAN’S ELEVEN, THE WESTING GAME, SNEAKERS, THE THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR, and STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN. I can imagine young writers using THE GREAT GREENE HEIST as a mentor text for their own heist and caper stories set in school. And writers of all ages may want to take note: this book is also an especially good example for how to write third person that slips seamlessly into different characters’ points of view.
Diverse groups of kids will be delighted to see faces on the cover that look like theirs, and when they open the book, they’ll find smart, authentic middle school kids who defy pretty much every stereotype known to man and woman. Athletic con artist Jackson is also a passionate member of the school’s underfunded botany club. That pretty cheerleader the boys are swooning over? She’s also a tech club member who knows how to code.
Teachers and librarians will appreciate all of that and more. This is the kind of book that I spent my whole middle school teaching career looking for, so I could put it into kids’ hands and say “This! You are going to love this one so much.”
THE GREAT GREENE HEIST comes out in May from Scholastic. I support independent bookstores, and if this title is on your reading list, I hope you’ll ask for it at your local indie.