Max Cobb is coasting through high school, bland and invisible with his 2.5 GPA and zero social life. He's a huge fan of heist movies and admires the pranks of the Chaos Club, a legendary, secret club famous for epic pranks at his high school. So when he receives an invitation from them, he can't believe his luck. But he can't help wondering, why him? Why Just Max? Should he become Not-Max and go for it?
He does but instead of glory, he and four other "invitees" were set up as the patsies. And their fail was epic. The entire school was talking about it. Unfortunately for the Chaos Club, Max isn't going to take this sitting down. Not-Max may have been duped but Not-Max is someone he kind of likes. He and his fellow dupes form an unlikely alliance with one mission. Take down the Chaos Club.
Ordinarily, I don't particularly enjoy heist or prank themed movies. The suspense of the heist makes me too antsy and I am not fond of pranks. If I do find the prank funny, I always feel guilty because pranks usually rely on humor at someone's expense. But pranks and heists have hit children's and YA literature hard the last year or so starting with Varian Johnson's The Great Greene Heist and Jude Watson's Loot. Both authors are due to drop sequels in the coming year. And I did enjoy both. I also ended up enjoying The Tapper Twins Go to War (with each other) by Geoff Rodkey and The Terrible Two by Mac Barnett and Jory John. When I learned of this debut during a Sourcebooks Preview webinar, I just had to request an arc.
It is totally apropos that the book birthday for Don't Get Caught is April Fool's Day. Teens looking for a fast-paced romp narrated by a snarky, smart, wry high school boy will swallow this whole and eagerly await/ hope for a sequel. The laughs come fast and furious. The pages of my arc are dog-eared to mark not only all the hilarious moments, but also moments of pure teenage truth with all its blemishes from the shark-tank social hierarchy through hard-ass teachers through unrequited love. The characters are smart but not in that overly twee way that sometimes dominates popular YA novels. These characters sound real. These characters have depth.
The story twists and turns as the capers unfold prompting quite a few, "Wait! What?" moments where I needed to stop to go back and reread. And that ending? Never saw it coming. Bloody brilliant.
Don't Get Caught might be a tad mature for my crowd. I'll be rereading it to try to make it work. I'm considering the eighth grade only shelf. I highly recommend it for high school and public library collections, as well as LA classroom collections. Teen boys and girls will enjoy this equally; as will reluctant and enthusiastic readers, fans of Andrew Smith and fans of heist movies. Don't miss out.