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Back to School with Jack D. Ferraiolo

August 11, 2015

I kinda hated school. I know a lot of people think that high school is the “time of your life” or it’s “the glory days.” To you I say, “Bah. Humbug” and then I shake my cane. But even middle school wasn’t that great for me. My mom taught 8th grade math in my school, so she was always there with me. This meant I could do nothing wrong ever because everyone (and I do mean everyone – even other teachers) would run to my mom to tattle. And yet…

And yet, it still seems like my school experience wasn’t as bad as that of Matt Stevens. Matt goes to Franklin Middle School, aka The Frank, and he is the local PI for hire. Unfortunately, kids at his school are ending up in The Outs – usually with a squirt gun to the pants. Big Boss (and former teasee), Vincent Bigglio, aka Vinnie Biggs is running the show, dictating whose pants get soaked and when.

In Ferraiolo’s first book, The Big Splash, Vinnie’s number one assassin, Nicky Fingers is sent to The Outs and Vinnie hires Matt to find out why. Matt’s also trying to figure out what’s going on with his single mom and her two jobs.

In the sequel, The Quick Fix, Ferraiolo explores the dangerous world of pixy stick addiction. The Outs are still going strong, only this time, Matt has a feeling he’ll be joining them soon. Someone’s gunning for the star basketball player and it doesn’t look good. Plus what is up with his Mom?

These books have been described as Middle School noir and they are really more Maltese Falcon than Veronica Mars. Ferraiolo takes the gritty underworld of the detective and sends him to middle school where his problems are pixy sticks and Super Soakers, instead of drugs and Tommy guns. It’s really very cleverly done – almost to the point of stupefaction. Some of the analogies were almost laughable in the book, but it really works to tell a good story.

I think I most enjoyed how the ending of the second book set up the potential for an Outs rebellion. I don’t want to say more: SPOILER ALERT! But so far I have seen no sign that the author is getting ready to publish a third book. I’m keeping my fingers crossed, though.

These books were funny and enjoyable and relatively quick reads. They are officially listed as Juvenile Fiction, but adults would definitely enjoy them. And if you are a fan of any kind of noir, you need to check these out just for comparison. So I hope that your back to school adventure doesn’t land you in the dreaded Outs, but honestly, I’m pretty happy not to have to join you.

Happy Reading (and Writing and Arithmetic)…

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Amanda is a classically-trained pianist who loves to read. Like any good librarian, she also has two cats named after Italian cities. Amanda spends her free time sitting in Nashville traffic, baking, and running the Interlibrary Loan office at the Nashville Public Library.