Greetings from Witness Protection!

Book review by
Joly Herman, Common Sense Media
Greetings from Witness Protection! Book Poster Image
Kicky tween thriller deals with themes of abandonment.

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 3 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

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").

Positive Messages

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 & Representations

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

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. 

Sex

Flirting, but no kissing or even handholding.

Language

"Dammit," "sucks," "hell."

Consumerism

Brand names used to paint a picture. Gucci, Prius, Facebook, Whole Foods, Disney Channel, Seventeen magazine, ShackBurger, the Mets, Red Sox, Duke University, Starbucks.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What 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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 10 year old Written byJD W. February 21, 2018

Great for older kids

I read this with my Tween and it was mostly fine except towards the end. One kid tells two kids to “get a room”. Try explaining that meaning to a kid. The endin... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byCamcan123 May 20, 2018

Great book

This book was Appropriate and fun to read, it had great scenes. scenes that you can actually think of and imagine what it would look like. The book was shockin... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byImThatWeirdKid July 4, 2018

AwesomeSauce!

I had been interested in this book, when the author came to my school and gave us a preview of the book. It really hooked me from that point, because the next d... Continue reading

What's the story?

In GREETINGS FROM WITNESS PROTECTION! a 13-year-old foster kid is tapped by U.S. Marshals to help a family go deeper under cover by adding a head to their head count. Nikki Demere is plucked from her foster care home in New York City to help a family whose mob ties threaten their lives. When they relocate to Durham, North Carolina, she's forced to play daughter to a family she hardly knows. Luckily, Nikki has some very handy skills, among them a quick mind and quicker fingers, which help her fit in. And fitting in is a matter of life or death: one false move and their cover is blown, the mob shows up, end of story. But Nikki soon finds that, for the first time, she belongs to a family who needs her as much as she needs them.

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!

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what being a foster kid means. Does Greetings from Witness Protection! offer a realistic portrayal of kids who are in that system? What personality traits has Nikki developed because of her need to belong? How are foster kids portrayed in other books or shows you've encountered?

  • Gangsters in this book are menacing in part because they are related to the main characters. How do uncomfortable family ties affect the families in this book and other books or movies you know?

  • A post on Facebook blows up in the faces of the family in this story. What experiences do you have with oversharing on social media? What are some good rules of thumb to keep your privacy secure?

Book details

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