What happens when a group of middle school geniuses trains for months to win a special contest at a Disney World-style Florida theme park called Incredo Land? That’s the premise of Bringing Down the Mouse, a page-turning caper whose hero is sixth-grader Charlie Lewis, known as “Numbers,” the nerdy son of an MIT professor dad and a mom with two Ph.D.s.

Charlie’s life is usually uneventful, until one day when two seventh-graders invite him to join the Carnival Killers, a group led by college student Miranda. Sworn to secrecy, they covertly hone their skills at mastering several seemingly impossible games in the hopes of earning a chance at spinning Incredo Land’s Wheel of Wonder and winning eight lifetime passes to the park. As one of the seventh-graders explains, “It’s not a trick. It’s math, chemistry, and a little physics.” Charlie is eager to use his knowledge to calculate exactly where the wheel will land until he realizes that Miranda isn’t who she says she is at all.

Author Ben Mezrich is best known for his adult nonfiction, the true stories of young geniuses toeing the ethical line for the sake of a big payoff—such as in Bringing Down the House (about MIT students playing blackjack in Vegas) and The Accidental Billionaires. With Bringing Down the Mouse, Mezrich has brought this theme to middle school fiction, and the result is a clever, breathtaking escapade with a likable cast.

 

This article was originally published in the July 2014 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

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