In a recent post Betsy Bird listed a few 2012 middle grade novels she is anticipating among them T. R. Burns’ first book in The Merits of Mischief series. I’m the friend she mentioned — the publisher sent me the ms to read and I liked it a lot, but hadn’t seen the cover till I saw the ARC at Betsy’s. (This post by the artist about the evolution of that cover is, to my mind, fascinating.)
It is a school story (yep, another one) a school for “special kids” (yep, yep, one of those), a boarding school story with odd and unusual things (yep, yep, yep), and so forth and so on. Thus it is very much a familiar trope — the one that gets rid of the parents by putting kids in a school, a school with all sorts of kid wish-fulfillment stuff (food, activities, gadgets, etc).
The main character, Seamus Hinkle, is shipped off to this particular school after his accidental throwing of an apple at a substitute teacher ends up with very, very, very bad results. This school has all sorts of unusual places, things, teachers, students, and a — natch — mystery. There’s a lot going on — the students are all, it turns out, mischief makers, brought there because of their skills in this (some of them equal if not worse than Seamus’s apple-throwing disaster). There’s a bit of James Bond sort of stuff going on as well as a pretty dramatic ending that leaving you wondering as what you thought was true seems not to be. Oh, it is also funny in a dry and wry way. I found it a very entertaining read and am eager to see where Burns takes it.