Coming Soon: T. R. Burns’ The Merits of Mischief

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.


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2 responses to “Coming Soon: T. R. Burns’ The Merits of Mischief

  1. I am thinking about absent parents in kids books, and am wondering if all the boarding school books that are proliferating like crazy are a nice responsible way for the parents to disappear off the scene. Not that there haven’t always been boarding school books, but it seems like they are everywhere one turns these days…..

    in any event, this sounds like a fun one.


    • I also wonder if it is related to the way kids can no longer go about their own as I did as a kid. That is, I would go to my friends a few blocks away, we’d all play sans adults in various places, and my parents would just ring a cow bell (really) when it was time for us to come home for dinner. So maybe a school is a way to give them them that sort of free range situation.


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