Monday, May 2, 2011

Middle-grade Monday: The Genie Scheme

The Genie Scheme, by Kimberly K Jones

Publisher: McElderry Books
Pages: 179 (paperback)
Reading Level: Middle-grade
Enjoyment Level: Medium

Thanks to the wonderful folks at Simon and Schuster, I got a whole load of books for middle-graders to review. I’m making my way through them, and this will be the first I’ll share with you. (Lucky you!)

From GoodReads:

When Janna impulsively buys a winter hat for a bag lady, she expects nothing in return. But Janna's kindness pays off in a big way when the bag lady turns out to be a genie! Now Janna is the genie's master and she couldn't be happier, especially when she learns that the "three wishes" rule is strictly for fairy tales!

Before long, Janna's room is overflowing with clothes and gadgets -- but things aren't quite as simple as they seem. Making wishes comes with its own set of rules, and Janna discovers that "unlimited" has some...well, limits. Genies can't make something out of nothing, so everything that Janna wishes for is taken from somebody else. Oops. And then there's the problem of genie wattage -- there's only so much of it, and Janna is using it up faster than she'd like. What's a greedy girl to do?

With insight, warmth, and a refreshing dose of humor, Kimberly K. Jones puts a new twist on the old adage "Be careful what you wish for."

I can’t say this is the strongest middle-grade showing I’ve read. It’s cute, and witty in parts. The flow of the story is probably the best thing the story has going for it. I felt like the plot moved nicely along, pulling me toward the ending without any snags or points where I felt snags. From the beginning, we see the direction of the plot, and the author delivers what you expect.

That said, the main character, Janna, isn’t terribly likeable, even at the end after she’s done her growing. The point is that she grows from a greedy, selfish girl, to one who thinks of others. I think it’s poorly executed here. Janna has few redeeming qualities – the fact that she buys a hat for a poor elderly woman is the only moment that pointed to an underlying good nature in Janna, and that was at the beginning. It was difficult for me to really enjoy the book while I was totally exasperated with the main character. She also seemed much younger than thirteen.

The moral of the story is not subtle in any way. It smacks you upside the head from the beginning, and that also made it difficult to really enjoy this. Maybe I’ve gotten used to the intricacies and nuances that are in older teen fiction, but I found that I didn’t like being forced to have the theme and moral shoved in my face.

But I’ll end on a positive note and say that I loved the interplay between Janna, the genie, and Janna’s friend Albert. That gave me a few chuckles here and there. Albert is a great character and he surprised me more than once, which was a welcome thing in this book.

Although I didn’t care for the story, it’s still a decent middle-grade novel for kids who like magic. And with the pace of the plot, it’s a good one for some reluctant readers. There’s a lot of action and the flow will keep reluctant readers from losing interest.

Until next time, go read something!

~ Vilate

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