Friday, January 23, 2009

The Big Splash

Matt is just like any other kid trying to survive Middle School. There is one significant difference between Matt and your average MS-er...he has to avoid his school's make-shift mafia. Vincent "Vinny Biggs" Biggio transformed himself from bully victim, to head honcho of all things illegal at Franklin Middle School. From forged hall passes and doctor's notes, to stolen tests, sport's team betting, and an underground candy market, Vinny is the kingpin. If you cross Vinny, chances are one of his minions will put you in the "Outs". This happens when the person who crossed Vinny ended up with a super-soaker to the crotch. Teasing ensues, and that is the end of the social life for the victim. There is no coming back from the Outs.

Matt has his own little business of being a private detective. He makes it a policy not to do any work for Vinny. He figures if he ever got in, it would be hard to get out without ending up on the Outs. And frankly, Matt doesn't respect Vinny. He sees a kid who used to bully turned into a bully himself. So he is very leery when he is approached by Vinny for a job. He wants Matt to return a trinket to Nicole Finnegan. This is significant because Nicole (Nikki Fingers) Finnegan used to be THE best trigger girl in all of Franklin MS. She put many kids in the Outs. She is also one of the only people to ever leave Vinny's organization without ending up on the Outs. Matt smells a set-up, but he really is at Vinny's mercy. He takes the job.

But when Matt approaches Nicole, the ultimate fantasy of many a Middle Schooler comes true. While her attention is on Matt, Nikki gets a super-soaker blast right between her legs. Someone actually takes her out.

Here is mystery of a lifetime. Who took out Nikki? Was Matt set-up? In the midst of all of this Matt is still trying to figure out why his old best friend Kevin is working for Vinny, and dealing with the affections of both Kevin's sister Liz, and Nikki's sister Jenny.

Jack Ferraiolo has written a rip-roaring good time of a who-done-it. The kids really are in charge, and there is very little adult intervention of any kind. The private-eye slang, and the insular world have sure appeal. Somehow, this Mafia Middle School world is ultimately believable, and very fun to read.

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