by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson
MG fiction. 394 pp.
Toby Harbinger, an eighth grader at Hubble Middle School near Washington, D.C., is in big trouble. He made the mistake of selling his dad's priceless original Star Wars blaster to a lunatic who thinks he's Darth Vader and travels with a large, hairy sidekick known as the Wookie. Now the lunatic wants more from Toby, whose only hope of getting out of this mess is to win first prize at the school science fair: $5000.
But others want the prize too—a group of rich students and their super-ambitious, high-powered parents, who will stop at nothing to see their spoiled kids win. What these parents don't know is that an evil mastermind is using them to get hold of top-secret military technology as part of a fiendish plan to destroy the United States.
When Toby discovers this plot, he and his two best friends, Tamara and Micah, try to alert the school authorities, including the fearsome principal, known as The Hornet. But powerful forces are working against Toby and his friends: they're snared in a frame-up and get taken into federal custody, facing espionage charges. Meanwhile, the mastermind proceeds with his evil plan of destruction.
In a desperate bid to escape, the kids find themselves in league with a fairly mad scientist and two bumbling foreign dignitaries armed with cheese so smelly it is used as wolf repellent. With the seconds ticking away and the FBI close on their heels, this bizarre band sets off on a madcap mission to stop the science fair—and save the country—before it's too late . . .
I picked up this book because I rather liked Peter and the Starcatchers by this duo but found my interest in their writing dwindling as the series progressed. So I figured this would be an excellent opportunity to see if it was the writing or the story that had lost me. By the time I finished Science Fair, I realized it was the writing.
The story itself has an intriguing premise and quirky characters. But it just doesn't come together in the end. Furthermore, the wit and charm seemed to be largely MIA. When all is said and done, I felt the book was far too long, and I was just yearning for it to be over. (Stupid Must-Finish-the-Book curse.)
Other reviews (these reviews actually like the book):
Christian Science Monitor | What Mary's Reading | Provo City Library