Thursday, October 13, 2011
Book Review: I Am a Genius of Unspeakable Evil and I Want to be Your Class President, by Josh Lieb (Razorbill, 2009)
Twelve year-old Oliver only pretends to be "slow". He wants to keep his genius - and the fact that he is already a multi-millionaire and international villian - a secret from his family and the kids at school. Oliver spends his day blundering along in school, having his secret henchmen shoot darts at bullies (that cause some unpleasant gastrointestinal distress), drinking soda and root bear out of his secretly rigged water fountains, and tormenting his English teacher from a distance. At home, he maintains his secret evil empire.
Until Oliver is nominated for Class President by a classmate as a cruel prank. Initially, Oliver declines the nomination, but his anger toward his father, who Oliver perceives as being perpetually disappointed with him, drives him to get back into the election and play as dirty as possible to win it - even if he has to rig his running mates.
This book is hilarious. Written by the executive producer of The Daily Show, there is plenty of wit and a breakdown of politics on a middle school level that shows the reader how juvenile the entire political process can be. While at a times a bit heavy-handed, it still gets its point across, and in Oliver, Lieb has created a narrator that is like a young Dr. Evil meets Gru from Despicable Me. Middle schoolers will love the idea of a kid running an international evil empire from his underground lair and who has his school rigged for his personal comfort, all while tormenting teachers and bullies anonymously. The frustration of wanting to be loved by one's parents while being aware of their flaws is a strong theme that will resonate with many readers.
There is a limited website for the book at Sheldrake Industries (Oliver's cover company in the book) that offers some information about the book, a video with Josh Lieb, and a quiz where readers can figure out how evil they are.