Thursday, May 16, 2013

Book Review: NERDS - National Espionage, Rescue, and Defense Society by Michael Buckley (NERDS #1)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Fun and imaginative
Cons: Not all characters given enough time to develop
The Bottom Line
Creative and fun
You and your kid will enjoy
NERDS rule in this book




I Want to Join NERDS!

~Access granted to this secret transmission.~

Finding a fun, creative new series is always an absolute delight.  And that's just what has happened with NERDS.  (That's National Espionage, Rescue, and Defense Society.  The acronym is rather unfortunate.)  The book may be aimed at kids, but I loved every page of it.

Jackson Jones has the run of Nathan Hale Elementary School.  As the star quarter back of the football team, he can do no wrong.  He and his friends rule the school.  That is until Jackson has to get braces.  As if his magnetic head gear weren't bad enough, no one will talk to him.

That's when Jackson learns that his school is the headquarters for a super secret spy program made up of kids.  Much to the other NERDS' dismay, he is asked to join their team.  Can he get the hang of his new responsibilities in time to save the world?

So what makes this book so great?  Mostly, the creativity.  NERDS headquarters is located under the school, and the kids get there via tubes from lockers.  Their abilities are enhancements of their nerdiness.  Jackson's braces are fitted with nanobites that can form what he needs.  One boy's hyperactivity is channeled into super speed and strength.  My favorite was the girl who was allergic to everything, including danger.  Stuff like that.

Plus, there are the fun spoofs of the spy genre.  Our villain in the book is a mad scientist with all the cliches.  In fact, we even get a discussion of the difference between Goons and Henchmen at one point.  The agent in charge of the NERDS is named Brand, and he's dashing and good looking.

The plot of the book is really about Jackson coming to terms with his new status as a social outcast.  The action is mostly located in the second half of the book.  But I was having so much fun getting there I truly didn't mind.  The character arcs are pretty predictable, but that didn't hamper my enjoyment of the plot in the slightest.  Besides, it's set things up nicely for the next book in the series.

The biggest weakness in my eyes is the characters.  I felt I got to know Jackson, his family, and some of the other adults well.  I never could keep the rest of the NERDS straight, however.  It doesn't help that they have their real name and their codename.  I just couldn't remember which kid had which ability.  Honestly, it only mattered a little bit.  In many ways I felt like this book was laying the foundation for more to come.  That and introducing Jackson were what it was supposed to do.  And it did that perfectly.

As a book aimed at late elementary school, it's perfect.  It reads quickly and flawlessly.  There are comic book style illustrations every so often, maybe every 30 pages or so.  The book is divided into sections, and we need to do something to be granted access to each new level of security.  Some of those were funny, but that device got a little old for me.  I have a feeling that kids will love it, however.

I know for a fact that author Michael Buckley is planning on turning this book into a series.  I can't wait to get my hands on the sequel.  NERDS has a few flaws, but I loved every minute of it anyway.

~End Transmission~

Because things build from here, you'll want to start with this book and then read the rest of the NERDS Novels in order.

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