Underneath his curly blond hair and wide blue eyes lie formidable computer hacking skills, what one may call a pliable moral code, and once, under the tutelage of his “therapist” A.K.A. Chancellor of the Axis Institute for World Domination, Thaddeus Roth, an uncanny ability to not get caught. After graduating high school at age thirteen, Cadel is enrolled at the Axis Institute founded by his father, Phineas Darkkon (who, incidentally, is in jail for a number of schemes). Naturally, Cadel’s best courses are “Infiltration” and “Basic Lying.” However, there’s one lesson that keeps giving him trouble, no matter how he tries to calculate variables and manipulate outcomes: human nature is a slippery system not easily hacked. Filled with disguises, intrigues, betrayals and cross-betrayals, poisoned nail polish, narrow escapes, terrible stinks, and the occasional twinge of conscience, Evil Genius is perfect for any villain-lover.
Once you have devoured Evil Genius, you can go straight to its new sequel, Genius Squad. Here a (mostly) reformed Cadel is desperate to escape foster care and get back to a computer after the explosive dissolution of the Axis Institute and disappearance of its most dangerous professors. Just when the foster-sibling tension and constant surveillance seem about to drive our villain-hero crazy, the “Genius Squad” approaches Cadel and his friend Sonja about infiltrating and taking down GenoME, a pet project of Phineas Darkkon. It wouldn’t be Catherine Jinks if things were always what they seemed. Many more plot twists, kidnappings, heeled ankle boots, super spyware and general villainous mayhem await Cadel in this installment—because, of course, there’s a third on the way, promisingly titled Genius Wars.
Reynie, Kate, Sticky, and
These books follow in the footsteps of Harry Potter, with boarding school settings peopled by gifted kids. Unlike Hogwarts, there is nothing as innocent as Divination or Herbology being taught at the Axis Institute or the Learning Institute. These books probe the ambiguity of good and evil and take the dangerous process of identifying friend and foe to a whole new level. In my opinion, that’s what makes them such remarkable reads.