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Welcome to Serenity, New Mexico, the city where everyone is happy, the children are above average and there is never a reason to leave. The inhabitants think themselves fortunate to live in a place where, unlike the rest of the world, there is no murder, deceit and corruption. In fact, Serenity just might be too good to be true.

Eli Frieden used to never question the too-good-to-be-trueness of Serenity until one day, on a seemingly harmless bike ride, everything changes. Eli and his friend Randy decide to bike to the outskirts of town when Eli suddenly becomes horribly ill.  Saved by the purple people eaters --- what Eli calls the town security force, the Surety --- Eli tries to put the incident out of his mind until Randy informs everyone at school that he’s being shipped off to live with his grandparents for no reason. On very rare occurrences do people leave Serenity, so Eli and his friends Tori, Malik, Amber and Hector become suspicious and do a little investigating to discover the truth.

The actual plot is much better than I could have anticipated --- you probably won’t believe it yourself. 

Fortunately, Randy leaves a series of clues that lead Eli and his friends to a note where Randy claims he was actually sent to a boarding school in Colorado, not to live with his grandparents. Apparently there is a reason that Eli got sick on the bike ride, and Randy is convinced it has something to do with the fact that Eli, Tori, Malik, Amber and Hector are ‘special’ and that the town of Serenity is screwy. With nothing but Randy’s note to go on, Eli and his friends decide to do some investigating into whether or not Serenity is hiding something and in what ways Eli, Tori, Malik, Amber and Hector might be ‘special.’

Some say that ignorance is bliss, and for the children of Serenity, that just might be true. Eli and his friends’ investigation leads them down a path they could have never imagined. First they discover that all the news and Internet information is somehow being filtered to only share positive, encouraging news. Second, the town’s epicenter, the plastic factory, may not be an actual functioning facility. With nothing but intuition --- and the quest for truth --- to guide them, the group of friends set out on a dangerous mission to find exactly what the perfect town of Serenity is hiding, even if it means coming face to face with the unthinkable.

Based on the title, MASTERMINDS, and the cover, I thought for sure this was going to be a book about kid geniuses and the overthrow of a local town or something to that effect. The actual plot is much better than I could have anticipated --- you probably won’t believe it yourself. That’s all the more reason to pick up this book by the mastermind himself, Gordon Korman. 

Reviewed by Benjamin Boche on March 10, 2015

(Masterminds #1)
by Gordon Korman