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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Mentions of Washington, D.C., landmarks and contemporary political leaders.
It's easy to underestimate people. Sometime what seems like a weakness can be a strength. Setting aside doubt helps you accomplish impressive feats.
Positive Role Models
Jonathan and Shelley -- one lacking confidence, the other having perhaps too much -- are willing to help however they can. The children's families are barely present and appear oblivious to their children's activities.
Violence & Scariness
The vice president is abducted and is possibly being tortured; children are briefly abducted and get into a skirmish with criminals.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The League of Unexceptional Children is heavy on absurd humor and rather light on suspense. The novel slyly mocks the celebration of high achievers and special talents that leaves ordinary kids feeling extraordinarily less than normal. The perilous scenes are played for laughs: kidnappers with exaggerated Russian accents, a villain known for trailing cookie crumbs everywhere, a top-secret message delivered via a jalapeño. Kids are resourceful and willing to rise above their own doubts. None of the characters is particularly inspiring, but female characters get particularly shoddy treatment.
Is It Any Good?
The idea of turning utter ordinariness into an extraordinary asset is clever, but a lurching, nonsensical plot and weak characters keep this book from rising above average. Some witty lines and gleefully absurd humor can't rescue THE LEAGUE OF UNEXCEPTIONAL CHILDREN, the start of a new series about kids who are like "white rice, there but never focused on" who are recruited to save the world.
Quirky characters soon grow tiresome, and the humor wears especially thin concerning female characters: Shelley is a ditsy chatterbox, the agent managing her consistently calls her "doll," the kidnapped vice president's wife is a loud-mouthed hysterical "dame," and the president's female chief of staff is inept. But flashes of smart writing -- including witty exchanges and very funny quotes opening each chapter -- show promise.
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.