The Nerdy Dozen, Book 1

 
(i)

 

Spy-kid series kicks off with goofy plot, high-tech fun.

What parents need to know

Educational value

There's a bit of military lingo, and some of the kids on the team show off their smarts.

 

Positive messages

Failure doesn't have to mean "game over"; dust yourself off and try again. In the right setting, video game skills are a unique talent to bring to the table. You can forgive others' bad choices: Even the villain here gets a second chance to do better. 

 

Positive role models

Confident Neil keeps stepping up to take charge to try to do the right thing, even after his efforts end in disaster. He recognizes hidden talents and reaches out to rivals to make peace in the interest of teamwork. Most of Neil's comrades also are team players -- the villain's obsession with being the solo best drives him and leads to his downfall.

Violence & scariness

There are quite a few action sequences, but there's never a feeling that the characters are in real peril. Neil and the villain have an awkward, ineffective fight, and a jet is crash-landed twice. Neil and the other recruits are effectively kidnapped, though they aren't held against their will. The villain's guards are armed and imprison several soldiers.

Language
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that The Nerdy Dozen brings online gamers together in the real world to rescue missing pilots and top-secret technology. Their online relationships inform the way they work together, side by side, on their mission. Protagonist Neil tends to follow his own course, leaving a home where his mother has sent him for the weekend and disregarding orders. Neil is deeply upset to learn that his closest online pal is a girl. There's minimal violence and a lot of silliness. 

What's the story?

In real life, Neil Andertol is an underachieving target for bullies. But, online, he's famous as ManofNeil, a contender to take the top spot in the online jet-piloting game Chameleon. Real and virtual reality abruptly become enmeshed when Neil is snatched off the street and taken to an Air Force base. He's one of 12 top gamers recruited to rescue two pilots and recover the top-secret Chameleon jet. To pull off the mission, Neil will have to deal with his online archrival, an island populated by ostriches, and a vengeful boy bent on being the most important game developer ever.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

THE NERDY DOZEN, debut author Jeff Miller's first book in a new series, is a campy, over-the-top adventure that's well suited to reluctant readers and newcomers to the spy-kid genre. It's clumsily constructed, with flabby writing, hammy characters, and plot holes big enough to fly a jet through. Kids who don't mind the bumpy going will enjoy the silliness, and fans of online games will enjoy Neil's dream-come-true story. The best scenes put Neil at the controls, whether it's in front of a screen or in a cockpit. Each of the Nerdy Dozen previously played solo at home, but when the stakes are high they need to forge real connections and work together.  

Parents might want to use this as an opportunity to review tips for staying safe online, particularly when it comes to online gaming.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about what happens when Neil's online life collides with "real-world" life. What remains true, online and off? What changes?

  •  

  • Why are the teens considered "nerdy"? (Learn more about media stereotypes.)

  • What steps can you take to maintain your privacy and stay safe online?

Book details

Author:Jeff Miller
Genre:Adventure
Topics:Adventures, Friendship, Misfits and underdogs
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Harper
Publication date:June 10, 2014
Number of pages:304
Publisher's recommended age(s):8 - 12
Available on:Paperback, Nook, Hardback, iBooks, Kindle

This review of The Nerdy Dozen, Book 1 was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

Quality

Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

Find out more

About our buy links

When you use our links to make a purchase, Common Sense Media earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes. As a nonprofit organization, these funds help us continue providing independent, ad-free services for educators, families, and kids while the price you pay remains the same. Thank you for your support.
Read more

See more about how we rate and review.

About Our Rating System

The age displayed for each title is the minimum one for which it's developmentally appropriate. We recently updated all of our reviews to show only this age, rather than the multi-color "slider." Get more information about our ratings.

Great handpicked alternatives

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

Write a user reviewThere aren't any reviews yet. Be the first to review this title.

Poll

Did our review help you make an informed decision about this product?

Digital Compass