THE GREAT GREENE HEIST for Marvelous Middle Grade Monday

The cover really draws you into reading this new novel by Varian Johnson. I did so a few weeks ago at the end of my greeneparticipation in the 48 Hour Book Challenge. It was my final title to read. As the final minutes ticked away there was only time to read the first two chapters. Not to be defeated, I started over a few days later.  My initial two-point reaction remained the same:

  • Was this a sequel? No, it’s not but it was like I missed the first course or two of an important dinner. I needed a scorecard with all the characters and back story thrown in. Just in the first ten pages you have Jackson Greene, Mrs. Kau, Coach Rainey, Mr. James, A.P Nelson, Gaby de la Cruz, Charlie de la Cruz, Naomi Sinclair, Keith Sinclair, Dr. Kelsey, Mr. Pritchard, Blitz at the Fitz, Mid-Day PDA, Lynne Thurber, Fiona, Omar Turner, Katie, and Heather Ames. Whew, I was exhausted. I checked out the  prequel on Mr. Jonson’s web site and dove back into the story.
  • I couldn’t get over that this cast of characters were mostly just turned 13-year-olds. What’s going on in Columbus, Ohio? I kept expecting a dream sequence to end. They all acted and appeared more like a high school crowd than middle school.

Moving beyond those concerns, I tossed aside the implausible plot and just enjoyed the story. It became an enjoyable ride. The diversity angle was great and the back story eventually explained. Fans of heist movies will get a kick out of the various roles each of the characters take. Real middle school age kids will be wondering why their school isn’t anything like Maplewood Middle.


FULL PLOT (From Amazon):  Jackson Greene swears he’s given up scheming. Then school bully Keith Sinclair announces he’s running for Student Council president, against Jackson’s former friend Gaby de la Cruz. Gaby wants Jackson to stay out of it — but he knows Keith has “connections” to the principal, which could win him the presidency no matter the vote count.

So Jackson assembles a crack team:  Hashemi Larijani, tech genius. Victor Cho, bankroll. Megan Feldman, science goddess. Charlie de la Cruz, reporter. Together they devise a plan that will take down Keith, win Gaby’s respect, and make sure the election is done right. If they can pull it off, it will be remembered as the school’s greatest con ever — one worthy of the name THE GREAT GREENE HEIST.


  1. You are kept guessing how our young protagonist is going to pull off his plan. The reader gets many of the details, but there are still enough unanswered questions to keep those pages turning.
  2. A very rare African-American protagonist in a contemporary middle school book. No stereotypes, just another boy in a diverse group of characters.
  3. The brief though powerful scene that demonstrates racism is still out there.
  4. This cast of teen characters are smart and it’s something not to hide. Young readers take note.
  5. Many references are made to the movie, Oceans 11, but I think this would actually make a blockbuster movie in and of itself.


Jackson shook his head. The idea if Mrs. Goldman being a Sk8tr Boiz fan weirded him out. He figured someone like her – someone in her thirties – would like boring music, like smooth jazz.


Check the links to other Middle Grade novels over at Shannon Messenger’s Marvelous Middle Grade Monday post.


About Greg Pattridge

Climbing another mountain...always striving to reach the next peak in my life and career.
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14 Responses to THE GREAT GREENE HEIST for Marvelous Middle Grade Monday

  1. msyingling says:

    You absolutely nailed my big concerns with this– it was sort of confusing, especially with all the characters. And, no, students in Columbus (I’m in a suburb) aren’t that mature! I do have a boy who wears a suit and tie to school every day, though. This certainly had some things to recommend it, but wasn’t perfect.

    • Funny, I also have one of those suit and tie wearing boys in my neighborhood. He wants to be president some day so he’s dressing for the part. I’m glad to hear Columbus kids are still kids like the ones I’m familiar with.

  2. I just borrowed this from the library and really looking forward to giving it a read…sounds like a read of the prequel might be in order.

  3. The cover immediately made me think Oceans 11 before you mentioned it as a comp, but then, I’m wondering about that as a comp for an MG book anyway. I like the idea of it, though!

  4. This sounds like a real romp. I’ll put it on my TBR list and hope I get to it sometime soon. Thanks for telling me about it.

  5. jennienzor says:

    This sounds really intriguing! I love what you said about the diverse cast and how refreshing to have an African-American MC where the book is not about his race.
    Thanks for featuring this!

  6. Sounds fun! Good to know about the number of characters — I’ll have to wait until I’m well-rested to read this one.

  7. liviania says:

    I’ve been wanting to read this one, because I liked heist stories. Sounds like it delivers on that front even with other issues.

  8. warrchick says:

    Love that line–totally laughing, since I know that’s how kids think. Appreciate the honest review, as this one’s near the top of my To Read pile and I might have missed a lot without reading the prequel first. Thanks so much!

  9. how fun! i love a good heist! and kids like to act older than they are, so who knows?
    great review! glad i stopped by and will be following now!

    thanks for your sweet comment at Michael Di Gesu’s on my Broken Branch Falls blog tour!

  10. Joanne Fritz says:

    Sorry I’m so far behind and still catching up on Monday’s MMGM posts. I’ve heard lots of buzz about this book, and yes, I’ve heard other people say it’s confusing. That many characters introduced in the first ten pages would have my head swimming! But if you could get beyond that it must be a fun ride. Thanks for the prequel link.

  11. Pingback: A Year of Marvelous Middle Grade Monday! Are You Kidding? | Always in the Middle

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