Book Review: Genius Camp

Genius Camp
The Smartest Kid in the Universe #2
by Chris Grabenstein

My rating: 4 / 5
Genre: Children’s adventure

12-year-old Jake and his scientifically enhanced, super-smart brain are invited to Genius Camp for a week by Zane Zinkle, a man who had once held the title of the smartest kid in the universe. Now he owns a large corporation (the 2nd wealthiest in the world) and has created an AI computer, which he wants to pit against Jake’s smarts.

This book was just as fun as its predecessor. I really appreciated that Jake was insecure about his newfound genius, partly because he wasn’t sure if/when it might suddenly wear off, and partly because he knew the jelly beans don’t cover every subject. I like his connection to Haazim Farooqi (jelly bean creator) and Farooqi’s involvement in this story. And I love that a certain other book series by Grabenstein is officially in the same universe as this series (I really want to say more, but I won’t, to avoid spoilers).

Kojo started to drive me a little crazy in this book, with his insistence on adding “baby” into his dialog so often. If I met this kid in real life, I’d have to walk away pretty quickly. I also was initially put off by the incredibly ridiculous immaturity of the villain, but I mentioned this to my 11-year-old daughter who had already read the book, and she pointed out that it wasn’t necessarily unrealistic, given the villain’s backstory, and I was able to look past it more easily after that. I did predict the sort-of-twist at the end, but I think that’s mostly because of a certain movie I’ve seen several times (I won’t name it, because it would spoil the ending), which I’m sure kids in the age range that this book is meant for would be a lot less familiar with. As I mentioned above, my 11-year-old daughter read it before me, and she loved it as much as the previous. That’s the strongest endorsement I can ever give for a middle grade book, so make sure to check it out for your kids (or you)!

Thank you to Netgalley and Random House Children’s Books for providing me a copy of this book to review.

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If you’ve read this book, or read it in the future, feel free to let me know what you think!

Book Review: The Smartest Kid in the Universe

The Smartest Kid in the Universe
Book #1
by Chris Grabenstein

My rating: 4 / 5
Genre: Children’s adventure

When 12-year-old Jake eats some jelly beans left sitting on a table, he never expected there to be consequences. Before long, though, he’s become the smartest kid in the universe, because the jelly beans were actually indigestible knowledge! Not only does he know a lot of things he hasn’t studied, he also learns faster when he does study new things. But will this newfound intelligence be enough to help him and his friends save their middle school from destruction, not to mention solve an old pirate legend?

This is an adventurous book that pushes the boundaries of modern technology in a fun way. Jake starts out as a kid who is too lazy to do much of anything, including learn new things. The jelly beans certainly give him a new outlook on life, and even though they do give him information without him having to learn, they don’t give him all information. Some things he needs to know he still has to study like the rest of us. Well, not quite like the rest of us, because his brain learns a lot faster than normal, but I do like that he’s not just handed everything he needs to save the day. I also like that he’s not the only smart one when he joins the quiz team with his friends. He may be the smartest kid in the universe, but he still needs some backup.

Jake’s best friend, Kojo, has recently become obsessed with old detective shows, which leads him to use the catchphrase of one of those old detectives a lot throughout the story. I grew up on Matlock, Columbo, and Murder, She Wrote, but Kojo was hung up on Kojak, which was a little before my time. I was just hoping for one, “Oh, just one more thing,” when Kojo was about to leave a room. Still, the way Kojo’s obsession plays out later in the book is pretty great.

I wish that this super-smart kid would have had some opponents that were a little smarter themselves; the villains were pretty stupid, especially Mrs. Malvolio. But maybe Grabenstein will step that up in the 2nd book in the series. There are also still parts of the author’s writing style (especially in dialog) that rub me the wrong way, but I did my best to ignore it. Like the Lemoncello series before it, my 11-year-old daughter strongly recommended this book to me, because she loved it! That’s the strongest endorsement I can ever give for a middle grade book, so make sure to check it out for your kids (or you)!

Find out more about The Smartest Kid in the Universe

See what I’m reading next.

If you’ve read this book, or read it in the future, feel free to let me know what you think!