A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Nikki is well read and references many characters of books, as well as the books themselves. She quotes Mark Twain at the drop of a hat, and she has a great vocabulary ("perfidy," "mollifying," "purloined").
Loyalty has its own rewards. Kindness is more important than popularity. Family is not just the people who share blood ties. Believe in yourself and people will believe in you.
Positive Role Models
Characters come from many different ethnic backgrounds. Sometimes the last name of the character signals the character's background (Elena Sicurezza, Diedre Mandelbaum); sometimes it's someone's cornrows or first language. The nod to characters' background might feel a little heavy-handed or overt to some readers, but it's an attempt at portraying real life.
Violence & Scariness
This book is a thriller with implied violence, death threats, and actual violence. Nikki, age 13, is (reluctantly) given a taser by a U.S. Marshall. Gunshots are fired and people are injured. A tween is hit by an adult. Adults beat each other with baseball bats, crowbars, and fists. The gore is not overwhelming, but blood does flow briefly.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Flirting, but no kissing or even handholding.
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"Dammit," "sucks," "hell."
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Products & Purchases
Brand names used to paint a picture. Gucci, Prius, Facebook, Whole Foods, Disney Channel, Seventeen magazine, ShackBurger, the Mets, Red Sox, Duke University, Starbucks.
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Greetings from Witness Protection! is an amusing thriller dealing with foster kids, adoption, kleptomania, gangsters, and self-preservation. Jake Burt's debut novel features a quick-witted tween heroine with a penchant for picking pockets. She comes by it naturally, as she was taught the skill by her grandmother and has grown up knowing that her father was arrested for robbery and possession of a weapon. Tasers, guns, using false identities, and being very careful not to blow cover frame a coming-of-age novel of the first degree.
Is It Any Good?
This delicious debut novel written by fifth-grade teacher Jake Burt nails the quick pace and turn of phrase you want a thriller for tweens to showcase. The characters in Greetings From Witness Protection! come alive with the intensity of people who are really invested in their circumstance. And the well-conceived premise doesn't disappoint when the ending pops into view.
Though the page-turning plot is deftly narrated by a savvy survivor, Nikki's necessary human vulnerability is not given all of the play it truly deserves. This is where the quick pace could have cooled its heels -- Nikki is a 13-year-old going on 30, yes, but she reads as being way more controlled than a girl her age should be. Her meltdowns are incredibly self-aware. She's inventoried herself a little too thoroughly to be real. But who needs real when you've suspended your reality to take a romp into witness protection land? Not since Miss Congeniality has deep cover been so rollicking. Here's to hoping for a series!
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.