Having read and reviewed middle-grade books for over a decade now, I am familiar with the name of author Gordon Kormon, who has written over 50 middle-grade and teen novels, and my son read some of his books, but somehow I missed them. I finally had my chance to experience Kormon’s work when I listened to the audio book Masterminds, his latest action-packed middle-grade novel.
Eli Frieden is thirteen years old, living a pretty normal life with his best friend, Randy, in Serenity, New Mexico. Except that life in Serenity isn’t exactly normal. Eli and Randy and the other 28 kids who live there know they are very lucky to live in the town voted as “#1 in the USA for standard of living.” Their parents and teachers often remind them that Serenity is a unique and wonderful place to live – with no crime, no poverty, and no unemployment, where honesty and integrity are valued over everything else.
One day, Randy convinces Eli to go along on one of his crazy schemes and they ride their bikes out of town toward the surrounding national forest. Something horrible and unexpected happens, though, and soon Eli and his friends begin to suspect that perhaps everything isn’t quite as perfect in Serenity as they’ve always thought. Eli’s dad is the mayor, so he has to keep his growing suspicions to himself, but the kids don’t really know exactly what is going on…just that something is not quite right.
Each chapter is narrated by a different kid in town, from among Eli’s friends and classmates who are all around 12 or 13 years old. On the audio, there is a different actor for each kid’s voice, which really added to my overall enjoyment of the production. The suspense builds with each surprising new twist, as the kids try to figure out exactly what is going on in Serenity.
I loved this action-packed middle-grade novel with a unique plot, and the audio book was a lot of fun to listen to. Kormon has written a fast-paced, suspenseful story with in-depth characters and plenty of surprising twists and turns to keep you guessing. In fact, I rarely feel compelled to read series – I often finish the first book and think, “I enjoyed that, but I don’t need to read more” – but this time, I can’t wait for book 2 to find out what happens next to Eli and his friends!