Title: The Odd Job Squad
Author: Karl Fields
Publisher: CreateSpace (also on Kindle)
Genre: Middle Grade Books

I’ll let you in on a little secret: when I was in middle school, I wasn’t exactly miss popularity. I’ve always been a bit of a black sheep, and while I think it makes me more interesting as an adult, as a kid it made me the object of ridicule. Sure, I had a handful of awesome friends that made life more bearable, but to this day I still remember many of the taunts spewed at me. I recall wishing there was some way I could knock the mean kids down a few pegs. In The Odd Job Squad, Ander and his friends do exactly that–teach mean kids a lesson in humility. See, they’re in the revenge business, and in middle school, business is good.

Ander, Joe, Christian, and “Shooter” (the only girl in the group) started the revenge business back in 6th grade, when Shooter was having issues with the stereotypical popular princess, Stacia. Once they got started, the decided to help others get back at those who have caused them trouble. The group always decides together which cases to take, and the number one rule forbid them from ever taking another personal case again. Despite these precautions, things do get personal when Shooter has a run-in with and one of Ander’s revenge plots lands a kid in the hospital. Although the two events are mutually exclusive, they do create a ripple effect that leaves the team running around the city searching for tickets to the hottest, most annoying boy band on the radio, learning a few things about the bullies that they bully back, and growing up just a little more with every turn of the page.

Now, I know some parents out there may be groaning about the glorification of revenge. I admit, at first I was thinking “oh geez, I don’t know if I’d want Jake reading this, it might give him the wrong idea!” But by the end of the book, the kids do learn some valuable lessons about what their actions do to others and how to better handle mean people. I’m not saying they swear off revenge or anything, as they are kids, and getting back at someone who hurts them is in their nature, but they do come a long way towards understanding the potential consequences of their actions. They’re good kids, trying to stick up for the underdog, and I have to admire that.  Ander narrates the story, so his growth is the most obvious, but Shooter also deals with some issues that play out through the story. Joe and Christian mostly seemed to be supporting characters, so don’t expect to see a lot of evolution on their parts.

The story was well written, with minor typos here and there. It was engaging enough to hold my attention, light enough that I could pick it up when I had time and still know exactly what was going on, and fast-paced enough that its target audience will be able to get into it. The Odd Job Squad is a fun read for both girls and boys, and a good book to start a discussion with your child about dealing with mean kids.

The Odd Job Squadis available on Amazon for $9.99 for the paperback version and $2.99 for the Kindle edition.