The Odd Job Squad
Reading Level: Middle Grades
Publisher: CreateSpace (June 14, 2011)
Source: a book from the author in exchange for an honest review
The best way to get even is to get Odd... Thirteen-year-old Ander Cartwright is an expert on two subjects: fortune cookies and payback. Especially payback. When he’s not struggling with algebra, Ander leads an anonymous revenge club that operates within the walls of Marina Middle School. Got a beef with a classmate? Email Ander’s crew and, if your case if legit, they’ll get even on your behalf. It’s not easy to right wrongs and fly under the radar at the same time. That’s why Ander developed three simple rules designed to help him and his friends stay incognito. But when Ander spots the opportunity to settle a score of his own, he ignores the rules, setting off a chain of events that threatens to blow his cover, and it’ll take all the butt-kicking, detention-dodging skill the guys can muster to keep a lid on their secret.
I finally finished this book! Hooray! Starting another school year has been busier and more hectic than I thought it would be, which has put a major damper on my reading for fun. The Odd Job Squad is a middle grades book set in your typical middle school. There are nerdy characters, jocks, vicious socialites in the making, and bullies. Your average middle school population.
I really thought this one was pretty cute. Not fluffy marshmallow and pink bunny kind of cute, but a good clean MG read. There was enough suspense to keep the pages turning. Unlike most MG books, there isn't an overwhelming sense of good overcoming evil. Yes, the Odd Job Squad is all about settling the score for the underdog, but some scores aren't really settled. There were several layers that added to this story that really made it better than the typical fluff read.
The characters weren't overly developed. Ander and Shooter are the more developed off the group. Ander moves from an immature, self-absorbed 8th grader to someone that thinks of others before himself. Shooter is a little more complicated. The reader doesn't get much of a sense of what she was like before the story actually begins, so it's safe to assume we meet her in the middle of her transformation. She has serious life issues that cause her to reflect on her life and the role her friends play in it. It's a pretty deep event for a MG book, but it is handled with delicacy that I think most kids will be able to relate with. If you're expecting a deep, complicated set of characters, you aren't going to find it in The Odd Job Squad. But then again, I haven't found too many MG books that have complicated characters.
The plot was fast paced. It starts off with one of the "getting even" events and keeps going from there. There is plenty to keep a younger reader interested. I honestly (I hate to admit this) did not see one of the events coming in the book. It caught me completely off guard. That's a major plus for this story because I'm really good at guessing plots. The conflict with Stacia (antagonist) is well developed. She is diabolical and the epitome of what I hated in middle school. I knew my own Stacia.
Currently, I'm reading Alan Sitomer's Nerd Girls aloud to my 7th grade students. They love it. It's funny, suspenseful, and full of the getting even with the bully drama that middle schoolers love. I won't let anyone borrow my copy of the book because it won't be there for our read alouds. I'm going to offer up The Odd Job Squad as an alternative. I think the kids that are enjoying Nerd Girls will enjoy The Odd Job Squad as well. I've noticed them checking out my "What I'm Reading" wall with the synopsis of this book, so it should go over well.
Middle school teachers and students would enjoy this book and should check it out. It's worth the read.