The Genius Files #2: Never Say Genius
Thirteen-year-old twins Coke and Pepsi McDonald are tangled in the midst of a terrible torture: a cross-country journey in an RV with their parents. They started out in California and are now about halfway through in Wisconsin. So far they have managed to survive, which is saying a lot. Not only have they been subjected to many weird and wacky (though interesting) tourist traps, like the world’s biggest ball of twine and the Spam museum, there are insane people trying their hardest to kill them. Some may wonder why anyone would want to do such harm to two 13-year-olds, but Coke and Pep are no ordinary teenagers. They are part of a secret program called the Genius Files, and they have some major enemies.
The second leg of their journey takes the McDonald family from Spring Green, Wisconsin, all the way to Washington, D.C. Some of their fun stops this time include a look at the world’s tallest man’s pants, Michael Jackson’s boyhood home, the world’s largest collection of outhouses, a Chicago Cubs baseball game, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and (the best part) a day at the Cedar Point amusement park with awesome roller coasters. In between all of the sightseeing, somebody unknown keeps slipping them secret encoded messages. Now, while Coke has a photographic memory and is fast-thinking on his feet, Pep has real talent for deciphering codes. Each code is different, and some are harder than others, but Pep manages to figure them all out. Unfortunately, even after decoded, they don’t make much sense.
Another unfortunate situation is that somebody keeps trying to kill the twins. First it’s in a fake French fry museum where they are almost boiled in hot oil. Later, they’re nearly frozen in ice cream, and then they come close to having their heads explode with extremely loud music. Coke and Pep don’t know what to expect next, but it all boils down to July 3rd in Washington, D.C., according to one of the encoded messages. And then comes their aunt’s wedding, the original purpose of the trip, and the huge surprise that awaits them.
Dan Gutman’s Genius Files series rocks! Book Two follows the same format as the first, with the family traveling across the county and stopping at some strange (but all true, according to Gutman) tourist spots. There is a very personal relationship between the narrator/author and the readers, with lots of encouragement for the readers to interact with the story, including studying maps, finding directions and decoding secret messages. The book is overflowing with fun facts, like how hypothermia affects a body and how hearing works. Plus, the facts are all interwoven with lots of action, cliffhangers and murder attempts, so it’s not like a boring lesson at all. And despite the continuous attempts on their lives, the methods are so silly and the bad guys so fumbling that the book’s spirit and ambiance remains high and comical. Gutman also does a detailed job of reviewing what happened in the first book with funny results, and introduces a couple of hilarious new characters, like the fellow who may or may not be a spy at the Spy Museum.
NEVER SAY GENIUS is a blast to read, full of energy, fun and laughter. Fans will be thrilled to know that Book Three is in the works, and is about the family’s return trip to California. It can’t get here fast enough.
Reviewed by Chris Shanley-Dillman on January 24, 2012