Rebel Genius

384p. (Rebel Genius: Bk. 1). Roaring Brook. Oct. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781626723368.
Gr 5–7—The cocreator of the award-winning television series Avatar: The Last Airbender has written his first book for children, and the result is an interesting, if overly long, blend of Renaissance art, sacred geometry, magic, and a hero origin story. Playing with the Renaissance theory that a genius is an actual being who guides talented people in their art, DiMartino introduces readers to Giacomo, an orphan in a world where art has been outlawed. All geniuses were captured by the tyrannical government, but Giacomo, who has been living in the sewers, finds himself in possession of a genius shortly after the narrative begins. His new companion leads him to join a secret group of students learning to use their artistic powers to fight against oppression. The students represent a range of diverse features and skin colors. A highlight of the Avatar series was its detailed setting, and Giacomo's lush and intricate world does not disappoint. The plot hits some familiar notes and does more telling than showing, but readers will be drawn into this highly stylized world.
VERDICT Though this series opener is not perfect, the author's famous past works should lead to high interest in most public and school libraries. Give this one to fans of Lisa McMann's The Unwanteds.

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