Book Review by KidsMustRead.com: The Masterminds

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Credit: HarperCollins Publishers

If you are between 9 and 11 years old, here is the perfect mini-series to read during these long summer / monsoon afternoons. The ‘Masterminds’ trilogy written by the New York Times bestseller author Gordon Korman, is a keep-you-on-the-edge-of-your-seat-novel with an echo of dystopian fiction.

Masterminds is about five thirteen-year-old children who live in Serenity, a small town with 185 residents in New Mexico in America. Serenity is a great, almost utopian (perfect) place to live – there’s zero crime, everyone is well to do, and parents are highly invested in their children. The three Essential Qualities of Serenity citizens – honesty, harmony, and contentment – are drilled into the children who are taught to trust and be truthful at all times. But there’s something strange afoot. While Eli Frieden’s friend, Randy, can leave town, Eli himself feels an inexplicable pain and severe nausea when he tries to step out of city limits. Amber Laska, who loves all things Serenity, stumbles upon a newspaper, USA Today, and is puzzled about why the negative things happening outside of Serenity are not covered in the local newspaper, Pax.

Five children in Serenity – Eli, Amber, Malik, Hector, and Tori – realize that they are somehow different from their peers. As their haven begins to unravel, the children’s questions fuel the answer that will take them on dangerous adventures they never dreamed of. How are the children different? Who is after the children? Will the children manage to break out of this seemingly utopian world? And if they do – what do they do next? Read the book to find out.

For Parents: Starting with the title that has more than one meaning in the context of the story, Masterminds is different from the run of the mill action thriller. Korman’s style of writing is crisp and is more “show, than tell”. For example, we get to know that Eli’s friend Randy (who goads him to cross city limits) is leaving Serenity because, in the next chapter, one of the items on Amber’s checklist is a reminder to make a farewell card for Randy. Told from the shifting points of view of the five children, it allows the reader to hear their varied voices shaped by their attitude to Serenity.

The series has an echo of the brilliant dystopian novel ‘The Giver’ written by Lois Lowry. It makes the reader think about the fundamental question – is nature more important or nurture more important in defining the personality of a child? ‘Masterminds’ is the first book in the series while ‘Masterminds: Criminal Destiny’ is the second book, and the third book that concludes the series is ‘Masterminds: Payback’. The Mastermind series is a fabulous set of stories where the pace of action is maintained in the sequels that finally reach a satisfying ending.


KidsMustRead.com is a website that helps parents to encourage their children to read. The search engine on the website generates a curated list of recommended books that are the right fit for a child’s age, reading level, and interest. The books have been read cover to cover by founder, Priya Iyer, and are vetted for violence and inappropriate content. Kids Must Read does this for you, so your child can have a wonderful and safe reading experience. It is a social enterprise – so all resources are free for parents. Become a member of KidsMustRead.com and help your child discover the Joy of Reading!

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