Sunday, September 18, 2016

Elements of Evil, by Brooke Arnold

Bernice is searching for a hero and what better way to unearth a hero but to have an evil villain on the loose?  She's ready to fit the bill of the evil genius through a series of scientific pranks.  It's been hard to be the little sister to the popular and respected Edith, but Bernice is certain that her plots will both make her mark on the world and let her nemesis sister prove her heroic qualities.

An energetic and irrepressible middle reader for the scientifically-minded.  Perfectly tuned to encourage girls into STEM fields, Bernice's enthusiasm for chemistry and science in general will interest young readers.  There's not much drama or story, but the story is packed with interesting fun scientific facts.  And what young budding scientist doesn't fantasize about flirting with evil?  Personally, I found the structure (basically, just journal entries and a few pieces of ephemera) too jumpy and impersonal, but it works and I think that younger readers will get caught up in the action.  It will play less well with readers who enjoy character development over action.

Another feature that readers will like is a wonderful secret code used throughout the book which, once you figure it out, provides hours of additional fun decoding.  (Full disclosure:  I figured out the basic principles of the code, but was too lazy to actually do the work!)

My one complaint is the design of the book.  There are lovely illustrations and a nice balance between text and ephemera, but the font used was horrible.  Cramped and weighted a too light, the type used in the book was uncomfortable and unpleasant to read.  It would be a shame for a lovely original story like this to be rejected by its potential readers because it just looked bad!

[Disclosure:  I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an unbiased review.  I will be donating the book to my local public library and have received no other compensation]

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