A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
There's a bit of military lingo, and some of the kids on the team show off their smarts.
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.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Neil is surprised and upset to realize that his best friend and confidante online is a girl. He's awkward and uncomfortable around her.
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Products & Purchases
Pop culture references sprinkled throughout the text include Dr. Phil, Doritos, Coca-Cola, Cocoa Puffs, Wheel of Fortune, Hyundai, Prius, and Taser.
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.
Is It Any Good?
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.
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.