FICTION

The Amazing Beef Squad: Never Say Die!

Delacorte. Mar. 2021. 240p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780593124758.
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Gr 4-6–In the town of Leonardsville, a famous swindle has been hanging over residents’ heads since the town’s beginning. And the charter members of the Amazing Beef Squad, four smart but mischievous middle school boys, are about to get a chance to make things right. Nick, Pratchett, Jared, and Hogue get good grades, but you wouldn’t necessarily know that from all of the time they spend playing video games and pulling pranks. Their latest escapade— adding made-up words to the glossary of the school’s science textbooks—has landed each of them in suspension and under the overly watchful eye of school resource officer, Officer Jim. Even though they have to play it safe for awhile, the firing of their favorite teacher Mr. Easton is enough to spring them into action in a scheme that is bigger than they imagined. This tale suffers from lack of plot and character development. In the beginning, the blurred time lines make it hard for readers to understand what is happening in the present and what is merely background information. Readers might also have a hard time suspending disbelief. Overly flat characters coupled with exaggerated plot points (the school has students digitizing city documents as a part of their schoolwork) may make it hard for readers to stay invested. Even the interactions between the characters, especially between parents and kids, are not authentic and shift wildly from moment to moment. Although this is on the shorter side for middle grade novels, the overuse of descriptive language and labored dialogue causes the pacing to drag. For books with a similar tone but better results, consider John H. Ritter’s The Boy Who Saved Baseball or John David Anderson’s Ms. Bixby’s Last Day.
VERDICT This book is not recommended for purchase.

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