Review: I Am a Genius of Unspeakable Evil

(Cross-posted from We Read to Seek a Great Perhaps)

I Am a Genius of Unspeakable Evil and I Want to Be Your Class PresidentI Am a Genius of Unspeakable Evil and I Want to Be Your Class President
by Josh Lieb
Published by Razorbill, 2009
ISBN 1595142401
Pages: 304
Ages: Middle School through YA
Lexile: 780L

Sometimes you’re excited about books being adapted into movies – especially if your little heart swells to think of the royalties going to the author. Other times, other books, the idea of a film adaptation is, at best, cringe-worthy. This is one such book. It’s coming to the big screen sometime this year, and I just simply cannot imagine how they can take this hilarious gem of a book and effectively translate it to video.

I first picked up this book based on its deliciously verbose title and its endorsement from Jon Stewart (“If War and Peace had a baby with The Breakfast Club and then left the baby to be raised by wolves, this book would be the result. I loved it.”) When I discovered that its author was one of Stewart’s executive producers, and that it had come out in paperback, I could no longer resist its evil, evil charms.

I was quite wrong about it, though. I thought Genius was going to be more or less realistic fiction about an over-intelligent, misanthropic kid running for student body. As it turns out, I was a tiny bit wrong about that “realistic fiction” bit. The story’s protagonist is Oliver Watson, a thirteen-year-old kid who may be overweight but who is also the third wealthiest person in the world. An evil genius, he built his fortune from a single petty crime (stealing some money from his mother’s purse)  and carved out an empire of subterranean tunnels accessible from his bedroom or a secret locker passageway. He’s a blimp-piloting, minion-smacking, evil gadget-inventing mastermind who, as a seventh grader, holds the strings of any number of puppet corporations and countries.

Oliver is determined not to divulge his crazily successful alter ego, and so he lives his life as a very convincing idiot. He’s got everyone fooled into thinking his shoe size exceeds his IQ – classmates, teachers, even his mother and, importantly, his father. It turns out that Oliver is motivated, not by greed, respect, or a desire to change the world, but by a consuming dislike for what he sees as his self-interested and small-minded father.

He’s also motivated by puppy love, but that’s another story.

As Oliver’s best intentions fall apart around him, he ends up in an amusingly messed-up race for student body president, gets cut down a size or two, and maybe even grows up a little bit. But that’s not why you should read it; you should read it for the footnotes.

I’d say that Genius would be what happened if a Daily Show writer re-wrote Catcher in the Rye as a superhero comic book, but since that’s basically what this is, I guess I’ll just say that it’s now available in paperback and as a $6 hardcover through Amazon. If you’re ready for a good, smart laugh, find yourself a copy and buckle your seatbelt.

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