Title: Alibi Junior High
Author: Greg Logsted
Genre: Children’s fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
First line: I hate airports.
Alibi Junior High by Greg Logsted is the story of Cody Saron. Since the death of his mother, Cody has been raised primarily by his father, a CIA agent. Cody travels with his father, homeschooling as he goes, and often helping his father on missions. He’s been trained to be constantly vigilant, on the alert for enemies. He’s an expert at karate and taking a much bigger assailant down. He’s completely at home in the action-packed world of espionage. But then something goes wrong and his dad sends him to live with his Aunt Jenny until he “sorts things out.” And Cody’s not prepared to begin his next mission – junior high.
Alibi Junior High is a terrific novel that is perfect for the tween and young teen demographic – especially boys. Cody is coming at the world of middle school as a complete outsider, someone who has never attended a public school and who is much more sheltered than any homeschooler in the US. He may have gone on secret missions with his father, but he’s never watched TV. He has no idea how kids talk or dress or act, and the results will make you groan in sympathy while you’re laughing out loud.
The one person who seems to understand Cody is his neighbor, Andy. Andy is ex-military, having just returned from the war in Iraq, where he lost his arm. He recognizes in Cody the ultra-vigilance and special ops tactics that he himself used in the war. Andy reaches out to Cody, and the resulting friendship is a huge benefit to both of them. And when the “trouble” that Cody’s dad was trying to prevent comes knocking on the door, Cody will have to trust Andy, in spite of the fact that his training – and his dad – say to trust no one.
This could have been a very surface book, just cool spy gear and cheap laughs, but instead Logstead goes for much deeper territory. Cody is dealing with so many things: the loss of his mother and what that means for his relationship with his Aunt Jenny; the idea that his father has “dumped” him off in a place in which he’s not comfortable, with no information and very little contact; the memory of the last mission that ended in disaster and death; school bullies; the realities of war; and choosing what kind of life he wants to live.
Logsted deals with all of these issues on an appropriate level for the intended audience. He also writes very well. A lot of children’s novels are heavy on plot and place less emphasis on character and setting. Logsted writes authentic characters and gives just enough description to give a good sense of place. Alibi Junior High has a great premise and a strong main character, and I hope that it becomes the first in a series.
My 12-year-old daughter Natalie and I read this together, and I actually liked it better than she did. She liked it and rated it 3 stars, but said she thought it was geared more for boys. She agreed to help me with my review, so I came up with some interview questions for her.
Who was your favorite character and why?
Andy was my favorite, because he helped Cody through his struggles and he was nice to him.
Cody was homeschooled until he started eighth grade. He has trouble fitting in at the middle school; why do you think that is? Do you think it has to do with his being homeschooled or his being a spy?
He probably isn’t used to that kind of public school and he had to get used to it. I think it was because he was a spy. He didn’t know how to act to fit in with the people at school.
If you were Cody, would you want to go back to your spy life with your dad or stay with your Aunt Jenny and have a more normal life?
I would probably stay with Jenny because life with her is normal without all the other craziness.
Who do you think this book would most appeal to?
Probably boys from 10 to 13.