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Evil Genius    by Catherine Jinks order for
Evil Genius
by Catherine Jinks
Order:  USA  Can
Harcourt, 2008 (2007)
Hardcover, Paperback, CD, e-Book

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* *   Reviewed by Ricki Marking-Camuto

Right now, it seems to be all the rage to have books for younger teens that take place in some sort of non-traditional school or have slightly evil protagonists. Catherine Jinks combines both of these trends in Evil Genius.

Cadel Piggott is a true genius. Of course, this does bring about problems: he doesn't have any friends because all of his classmates are much older than he is and his adoptive parents don't know what to do with such a smart kid. After hacking into high-security computer databases at the age of seven, Cadel is sent to Thaddeus Roth for counseling, and his life starts to become even stranger.

Cadel learns from Thaddeus that he is actually the son of Phineas Darkkon, a criminal mastermind who has been behind bars for many years. What's more, Darkkon wants Cadel to follow in his footsteps and has created an evil college, the Axis Institute, for Cadel to attend once he graduates high school. In order to study more about computers, Cadel agrees to go. Soon, though, his other classmates begin disappearing and dying and infighting breaks out amongst the staff. Desperate to get away, Cadel runs home only to be kidnapped - at which point, he learns that the Axis Institute conspiracy is deeper than he could ever imagine.

Evil Genius is a very intense, edge-of-your-seat thriller ... once you get half way through. The first third of the book is spent on mostly unrelated anecdotes detailing how smart and cunning Cadel is, but nothing really happens. After this, Jinks does start getting into the meat of the story and introduces a more coherent plot, but it is not until the dying starts that the book gets intriguing.

It is also at about this point, that Cadel becomes a true protagonist and a much more interesting and empathetic character. He is a cross between Harry Potter and Artemis Fowl, but resides in Australia, which puts a unique spin on his personality and on Evil Genius. By the end of the book, Cadel has a few true friends, and I believe it will be around this group of friends that the sequel will revolve. If this is so - and assuming there will be less need for exposition - I look forward to Genius Squad.

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