Don’t Get Caught: A YA, Five Things I’ve Learned Review

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You wouldn’t necessarily think that one could learn much from a book about professional-level pranking, but today’s book puts that misconception to rest.  Don’t Get Caught by Kurt Dinan is a contemporary YA that dispenses with “all the feels” (hooray!) and gets straight down to the nitty-gritty…the nitty-gritty being pulling epic pranks on friends, neighbours, colleagues and schoolmates.  We received a copy of Don’t Get Caught from the publisher via Netgalley.  Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

10:00 tonight at the water tower. Tell no one. -Chaos Club

When Max receives a mysterious invite from the untraceable, epic prank-pulling Chaos Club, he has to ask: why him? After all, he’s Mr. 2.5 GPA, Mr. No Social Life. He’s Just Max. And his favorite heist movies have taught him this situation calls for Rule #4: Be suspicious. But it’s also his one shot to leave Just Max in the dust…

Yeah, not so much. Max and four fellow students-who also received invites-are standing on the newly defaced water tower when campus security “catches” them. Definitely a setup. And this time, Max has had enough. It’s time for Rule #7: Always get payback.

Let the prank war begin.

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And here are Five Things I’ve Learned from Don’t Get Caught by Kurt Dinan:

  1. When committing a prank, always wear some kind of protective hand covering.  Not only does this ensure your fingerprints remain anonymous, but it also guards against picking up residual mess from pranksters trying to out-prank you.
  2. Always have a Plan B.  Preferably one that involves undergarments of some description.
  3. The decision to use livestock in pranking should not be undertaking lightly.  Nor should it be undertaken without recourse to the appropriate livestock-lifting safety harnesses.
  4. The leader of the pranksters is always the one you least suspect.  Or the one you most suspect.  Or someone you hadn’t suspected at all. Take your pick.
  5. Even the most public bout of humiliation can provide inspiration for new and original pranks.

Sometimes you just need a book that doesn’t take itself, or the business of being a teenager, too seriously.  Don’t Get Caught is the perfect book to fill such a need.  It’s light, it’s a lot of fun, it has a great mix of characters (albeit mildly stereotyped to begin with) and it never pretends that its dealing with anything other than a snapshot of time in the lives of a group of teens.  While the basis of the book is an in-house prank competition set up by the “Watertower Five” – the five kids invited to an ill-fated meeting with the infamous Chaos Club – the plot has a secondary focus on identity and revenge.  Without ever getting bogged down in too much seriousness, it is obvious that Max is questioning who he is and who he wants to be, and whether the end justifies the means, where revenge-based pranks are concerned.

Dinan has done a great job of dropping in some excellent adult characters, including artistic drop-out type Uncle Boyd, deputy principal and commanding officer of the fun police Mr Stranko, the long-suffering but really quite accommodating principal Mrs B, and the never-give-you-a-straight-answer philosophy teacher Mr Watson.  Even Max’s parents make a believable couple, and it’s not often you get to say that about adult characters in YA books.

The pace is generally quick throughout and although there is space given over to the more issues-based aspects of the plot – including social labeling, personal accountability for mistakes made, leaving a personal legacy – rather than slow the plot, these interludes save the whole book from spiralling down into one big crazy prank-fest.  There are a couple of fantastic twists at the end of the story – one or two I suspected might be coming and others that appeared out of the blue – and while I wouldn’t recommend reading it as an instructional guide to public mischief, overall it’s a thoroughly enjoyable read for those who enjoy a bit of subversive jollity.

Highly recommended.

Until next time,

Bruce

 

Jesper Jinx: A Maniacal Book Club Review…

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Morning all, and welcome to another meeting of the Maniacal Book Club! Today we have a middle grade illustrated chapter book that leaves no depth unplumbed in the humorous misadventure category.  It is Jesper Jinx by Finnish author Marko Kitti.  Marko is the first Finnish author we’ve had on the blog so far, so we’ve come over all multicultural.  But let’s get on with it!

Jesper Jinx

Jesper Jinx is an eleven year old boy who seems to attract trouble like nobody’s business.  This book follows some of Jesper’s escapades (two and a half, to be exact), as told to author Marko Kitti.  In the first story, Jesper accidentally gives his cat, Snowy, a new fur colour and in the second, Jesper accidentally gives away some of his best pranks to a teaching insider.  Essentially, this is a written record of the things that can go wrong in hilarious ways when a bored young lad is unleashed upon unsuspecting passers-by. 

Guru Dave

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My friends, this book is all about learning one’s lesson, about gaining self-control and about turning one’s skills to good, not evil.  Actually, in all honesty my friends, this book is about none of those things.  It is about mayhem and chaos and shenanigans perpetrated upon the unwary and innocent.

The boy Jinx has a telling catchphrase throughout this book: “What harm would it do to have a little fun?” Kitti’s writings recorded here explain fully the extent of how wrong things may go if left in the hands of an unsupervised eleven year old boy.  I fear for the karma of the Jinx boy.

Toothless

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No dragons in this book. There’s lots of trouble though.  And a cat that gets turned red.  And a kid with a moustache – I thought that was pretty funny.  But no dragons.  That’s probably a good thing because Jesper with a dragon could be more than the world is ready for.  Still. It might be more fun if there was  a dragon.

Mad Martha

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If he were a girl, you’d call him a minx.

His crazy behaviour will make parents groan,

He probably shouldn’t be let out on his own.

Heed this advice that I freely share::

Should you see Jesper coming, by heavens, beware!

Bruce

maniacal book club bruceJesper Jinx is the kind of book that will have kids aged about 7 and up rolling in the aisles as they read about Jesper’s wildly chaotic adventures.  The book is a short read with a great formatting balance between text and illustrations and will have the young ones (especially boys, methinks) turning the pages until they’ve uncovered the whole sorry tale of Jesper’s antics. The story is packed full of kid friendly humour, like playing pranks on one’s teacher, and is really all about innocent fun.

Kitti’s style is very much like a combination of Roald Dahl and David Walliams, so if you’ve read either of those two authors (and really, who hasn’t?!) you’ll know exactly what you’re in for here.  There’s plenty of silliness and unexpected plot twists that plunge Jesper into even more trouble than before.

Admittedly, this is one of those books for kids that really is pitched to be enjoyed most by kids in the target age range, rather than one that adults will get a lot out of too.  Having said that, it does have all the makings of an engaging, fun, funny and accessible entry point into the early chapter book format and as such, would be perfect for reluctant readers, or as a “just for the fun of it” classroom read-aloud.

You can visit Jesper and find out more about this book and the next in the series at http://www.jesperjinx.co.uk

Until next time,

Bruce (and the club!)

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