Monday, November 16, 2015

Review! Masterminds


Author: Gordon Korman

336 pages--ages 8 and up

Published by:  Balzer + Bray on February 3, 2015


Summary (from

Eli Frieden lives in the most perfect town in the world: Serenity, New Mexico. Honesty and integrity are valued above all else. The thirty kids who live there never lie—they know it’s a short leap from that to the awful problems of other, less fortunate places.

Eli has never left Serenity . . . why would he ever want to? Then one day, he bikes to the edge of the city limits and something so crazy and unexpected happens, it changes everything. Eli convinces his friends to help him investigate further, and soon it becomes clear that nothing is as it seems in Serenity. The clues mount to reveal a shocking discovery, connecting their ideal crime-free community to some of the greatest criminal masterminds ever known. The kids realize they can trust no one—least of all their own parents.

[caption id="attachment_481" align="alignright" width="200"]gordon_korman The author of the Masterminds, Gordon Korman.[/caption]


I found this book on another blog about books. Seems like a kind of creepy book, but because it is for middle schoolers I am confident that it will have a good balance of creepy and kid friendly content. The book seems to focus on nature vs nurture and I'm excited to see the answer that it gives.

I can see myself going either way on this book, I may love it or I may hate it. I don’t really know much about this book right now, so I don’t have many thoughts on it. Mostly, I just hope I don’t hate it and that it’s good enough that I can finish it.


“Are criminals the way they are because of the environment that they grew up in? Or do they commit crimes because it is in their nature?”

This book was even better than I expected that it would be. The heart of this story is rooted in the scientific debate of nature vs. nurture. The story focuses on 5 children who, unbeknownst to them (at least for the first part of the story), are clones, created from the DNA of current criminal masterminds, who are being monitored by their “parents” (actually researchers).  Naturally, once the children find out, they are less than pleased and as a result they stage an escape plan to get away.

The topic of cloning evil masterminds to use them as test experiments is unquestionably serious, but the author manages to still put subtle humor in the text without compromising the seriousness of the story. Normally, I shy away from books that focus on utopian/dystopian stories because in my experience they are usually way too serious and hard-boiled, but this book manages to balance both serious situations with an occasional lighter tone, which is perfect for the younger audience.

[caption id="attachment_480" align="alignleft" width="202"]Alternate Cover of Masterminds. Alternate Cover of Masterminds.[/caption]

Masterminds is told in alternating perspectives between 5 characters: Amber, Hector, Eli, Malik, and Tori. Normally a story told in alternating perspectives is harder to follow, especially when the characters aren’t distinctive and all blend together. Fortunately, all 5 characters are individuals and each adds a lot to the story line so I didn't mind that the story was all in different perspectives. It definitely gave the author the time to build the characters personalities and make them much richer.

The story itself was thrilling and suspenseful. I couldn't put the book down and ended up staying up until 2 am reading it before I finally went to bed and finished it the next morning. I felt invested in all the characters and when one of them doesn't make it in the end (it's not definite that the character died) I was so sad! I sincerely hope that the character shows up in the next book, although if they survived their chances of being okay are pretty slim.

As much as I disliked the fact that one of the character dies, it added much more to the story then I originally thought. Throughout the book, the author places subtle hints that answer his overarching question of nature v. nurture. The sudden death of a character adds even more to that. Malik, who the researchers dub “Rotten Apple,” actual manages to show feeling of sympathy when the plan to escape foes awry. He blames himself for the situation the children are in and he begins to feel remorse. I think that adds great depth, not only to Malik as a character, but to the other characters too. Seeing how the four survivors react to someone’s death is very interesting.

Overall, this book was awesome and I highly recommend it. As a warning, the book ends on a serious cliffhanger. When I was finished reading I felt as if the story was just beginning, and I wanted to keep going. I'm anxiously awaiting the second book titled Masterminds: Criminal Destiny set to be released February 2016.

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