May 2007

School for scandal

By Catherine Jinks
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If there ever was a bad seed, it’s Cadel Piggott. At the tender age of seven, he’s been put into counseling for hacking into computers illegally, but the counseling he gets isn’t quite what his foster parents think it is. Thaddeus Roth isn’t your typical psychologist; he encourages Cadel’s forays into the dark side of the online world and applauds and critiques his young charge as the boy manipulates the system to cause massive traffic jams and wide-scale power outages. In order to earn himself a new computer, he comes up with an electronic pen-pal scheme (think Face Book), which will have a bigger impact on his life than he could dream. Finally, as a graduation present to a high-school class with whom he neither identifies nor feels comfortable (being considerably younger than the rest), Cadel surreptitiously arranges for many of them to flunk out. A 14-year-old high school graduate with such an unusual skill set doesn’t belong in a normal university, but Thaddeus Roth has a solution along with some other surprises.

As we soon learn, Cadel is the son of Thaddeus Roth’s employer Dr. Phineas Darkkon, a criminal overlord of astonishing ability, currently serving a life term at one of Australia’s most impregnable maximum security prisons, not that this keeps him from communicating with his son. He establishes a school just for Cadel the Axis Institute for World Domination and Cadel will soon be joining the incoming freshman class, where he’ll learn such useful skills as Advanced Lying, Disguises, Embezzlement and of course, Computer Infiltration. The class is a mixed lot, including twin blonde girls who might be telepathic, a boy who wants to become a vampire, and a boy named Gazo whose body odor is so lethal that he has to wear a protective suit and who wants to be Cadel’s best friend! Friendship is the one thing lacking in Cadel’s life, that is, until he begins corresponding anonymously with a nurse named Kay-Lee, 10 years his senior, on his electronic pen-pal site. She’s funny and interesting, and has an amazing grasp of mathematics, and while he knows it’s wrong to lead her on, he enjoys his Internet chats with her. Then, when things take a darker, troubling turn at the Axis Institute, he finds he needs Kay-Lee’s support just to keep going. Could he actually be developing a conscience? Evil Genius is a kid-sized thriller, a fast-paced, intriguing novel for teens about the nature of good and evil. With surprising plot twists and steady doses of humor, Australian writer Catherine Jinks offers some much-needed escapism just in time for summer.

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Evil Genius

Evil Genius

By Catherine Jinks
ISBN 9780152059880

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