Evil Genius, by Catherine Jinks, follows a boy named Cadel, a typical child prodigy and hacker. Cadel is an orphan, and is living in a foster home with the Piggot family. In his life’s turmoil, he finds solace in computers. Whenever he can get his hands on one, his parents and teachers find him hacking into security and traffic networks. So, the Piggots turn to Dr. Thaddeus Roth, a child psychologist for the troubled. However, Thaddeus isn’t who he appears to be. Rather, he encourages Cadel’s illegal behavior, with the advice “Don’t get caught.”
Soon, Cadel finds himself at the Axis Institute, a school of villains. Your typical school course includes lying, computer infiltration, embezzlement, and assassination classes. For a while, Cadel feels at home, surrounded by other kids with special abilities. However, he meets Kay-Lee, another genius he met online. Ignoring Thaddeus, Cadel soon befriends Kay-Lee, and have long chats that only geniuses would have (not your average math). Gradually, she helps Cadel see through Dr. Roth’s institute so that he will find out what he really is meant for.
Catherine Jinks has a very entertaining story from a quirky perspective. We usually hate them, but now find ourselves rooting for Cadel in his evil schemes. At the same time, the readers know he is doing the wrong thing, so we appreciate his process of self-realization. The Axis Institute is also an interesting component to the story. How would a real school of deception be run? Would it be fun if you were an evil genius?
People of all ages can enjoy this book. However, teenagers would probably enjoy it the most, because of the action and computer science lingo. Evil Genius is the first book in a trilogy. Genius Squad and Genius Wars are just as engaging. So what are you waiting for? Find out for yourself what it’s like to be an evil genius!
-Phillip X., 8th grade