What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this book is about a girl who starts a cheating ring, making money by doing other kids' homework and roping in other smart kids to help her. There is some kissing, some label dropping, and a swear word here and there. More importantly, there is also some complicated material that could come off as sexual harassment. Though it's played for laughs, Maya is taken against her will by rich Camden to his house, where he proceeds to slip into the hot tub. When Maya complains about being kidnapped, he tells her "No one would ever believe you." In another plot point, a boy that Maya gently rejects gets mad and ends up blackmailing her; she gets an extension on meeting his demands by whispering in his ear, which she admits is the "closest to prostitution" as she's come.
What's the story?
When Maya's parents leave their Thai restaurant in the kids' hands for a weekend, they think they can trust their overachieving, responsible daughter. But she and her brother decide not to clean up after a long night -- the night before a surprise health inspector visit. Now, Maya's got to figure out a way to pay the $10,000 fine without her parents finding out. So she pairs up with a rich bad boy to start doing homework for money. Soon, the demand gets so great that Maya has to recruit her other smart friends into the ring, which increases the danger of being found out.
Is it any good?
This is the first novel from a writer who also helps pen Family Guy. And, really, Cheva's book has a lot in common with a TV show: It's filled with fast-paced dialogue, some outrageous moments, and fairly predictable characters and plotting. Her protagonist Maya has some great deadpan lines. (When Camden remarks that Asians are supposed to be good at math, she snaps, "Yes, my people all do math for fun, while simultaneously dry-cleaning our karate outfits and giving each other manicures and pedicures, all in between our numerous piano and violin recitals.") She is complex, too: While she starts off her cheating ring only to pay a bill that could shut down her parents' restaurant, she ends up getting into the money and popularity that she gets from doing the A-list's dirty work.
Readers may not quite buy the ending (the principal actually lets Maya and the other students involved in the cheating ring off with only a three-day suspension). But in the end, they will applaud Maya's transformation into a complete (and more honest) person. And they will appreciate that she maintains her spunk, even after learning a lesson -- and falling in love.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about cheating. It's become a hot topic in the media these past few years. Are more kids cheating now than before? If so, is this because of the pressure kids feel to succeed? Parents may also want to check out Common Sense Media's advice for addressing cheating.
Parents may want to delve into Maya's character. She is a hard-working girl at school and at her parent's restaurant, but does start a cheating ring (and learns to enjoy the money and popularity that come with it). Does the fact that she is relatable and learns a lesson enough to make her a good role model?