Friday, June 10, 2011

Review: I am a Genius of Unspeakable Evil and I Want to Be Your Class President

I am a Genius of Unspeakable Evil and I Want to Be Your Class President by Josh Lieb. Razorbill, (9781595143549) $8.99 pb

This is a hard book to critique, since I’m not the intended audience. It’s very creative, original and funny, which adults can appreciate, but also often gross and offensive, which not so much. Perhaps we're better off giving this to the kids and sticking to Evil Overmom. I did appreciate its cleverness, however.

Our narrator is Oliver, the school fat boy, whom everyone thinks is mentally slow. Little do they know that he’s really an evil genius putting on an amazing front, is fabulously wealthy and unbelievably powerful, and runs everything at their school. Anyone who tries to mess with him is rewarded with flatulence caused by a drug he invented, and he goes about his day enjoying the secret root beer/chocolate milk water fountain he had installed, and the toilet kept stocked with malted milk balls.

Although he admits to being fond of his "shapeless, witless mass of mousy hair, belly fat and boobs" mother ("Do I love her? Am I capable of love? A question even I can't answer) -- Oliver utterly despises his father. But the subtext tells a different story, of a boy desperate for his dad’s approval. When he decides to show up his father by winning the election for class president, he puts forth all his brilliance and tremendous power. But Oliver, being pure evil, doesn't realize how much "humans and their idiotic emotions" could foul up his plans. Emotions are the "only things in this world I can't control." Including, inevitably, his own.

The fantasy world -- or is it? -- is skillfully maintained, and anyone who’s ever been picked on in school will find it hard to resist the fantastical ways in which Oliver expresses his resentments and gets his revenge. I was very curious about how the story would resolve: would we ever find out if this is truth? Would Oliver ever admit to telling a story? I won't say how it ends, except that it was both consistent with the book's internal logic, and satisfying.

Photographs illustrate the story, but I didn’t feel they added much, and you won’t miss anything if you listen to the audio version (which is very well done, albeit tiresome at times. So much venom spewing can be painful to listen to.) I listened to audio for the first part of the book, then switched to an ebook. (Which I don't recommend, because there are numerous comic footnotes and those are a pain in eformat.) (Suggested age range: 13 & up)

© 2011 Wendy E. Betts

FTC disclosure: Both review copies provided by the public library. This blog is completely independent, but I receive a small percentage if you order books from Powell's via this site.

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Anonymous Alyssa from Good Books for Teenage Girls bligged...

A fascinating book, it's also a good demonstration that not everything is as we might think on the first glance.

8/07/2011 3:03 PM  

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