To Catch a Cheat

by Varian Johnson
First sentence: “Jackson Greene placed his pen on his desk, loosened his red tie, then flipped the page on his American History exam.”
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Review copy provided by publisher.
Release date: January 26, 2016
Others in the series: The Great Greene Heist
Content: There’s a slight romance. It’ll be in the middle grade (grades 3-5) section of the bookstore.

Jackson Greene’s in retirement. Again. For real this time. No more cons. No more heists. He’s focusing on getting Gaby de la Cruz to be his girlfriend and on passing American History. Then he gets called into the office: someone flooded the bathrooms and ruined the carpets over the weekend, and the principal is convinced it’s Jackson and his crew.

Except it’s not: every single member of the crew has an alibi for the time frame, albeit ones they’re reluctant to give. And then Jackson is texted a video — obviously faked — of him and his crew performing the prank. It’s blackmail: steal the answers to the huge American History test or the principal gets the video and Jackson gets suspended.

There’s more to the plot than that, of course, including a brilliant long con with lots of twists and turns. Sure, it’s implausible, but it’s a lot of fun as well. The diverse cast is back as well, which is also incredibly gratifying. It’s very nice to have a fun book with diverse characters and have it be (mostly) issue-free. (I’m not sure how well the Asian kids came out of this; the character development of the minor characters seemed a little weak, but maybe Johnson was relying on what he did in the first book?)

I thoroughly enjoyed it.

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