The start of a mischievous new middle-grade series has trouble written all over it.
Twelve-year-old Seamus Hinkle is a good kid with a perfect school record—until the day he accidently kills his substitute teacher with an apple.
Seamus is immediately shipped off to a detention facility—only to discover that Kilter Academy is actually a school to mold future Troublemakers, where demerits are awarded as a prize for bad behavior and each student is tasked to pull various pranks on their teachers in order to excel. Initially determined to avoid any more mishaps, Seamus nonetheless inadvertently emerges as a uniquely skilled troublemaker. Together with new friends Lemon and Elinor, he rises to the top of his class while beginning to discover that Kilter Academy has some major secrets and surprises in store….
The Bad Apple
T.R. Burns. S&S/Aladdin, $16.99 (352p) ISBN 978-1-4424-4029-6
In this auspicious first entry in the Merits of Mischief series, 12-year-old Seamus Hinkle is sent to the Kilter Academy for Troubled Youth after he accidentally kills his substitute teacher, Miss Parsippany, with an apple. Upon his arrival, however, Seamus discovers that Kilter is actually a school for professional troublemakers: demerits are awarded for bad behavior, gold stars are looked down on, and students use the skills they’ve learned to trick their teachers. Despite his best efforts (and lingering guilt over the death of Miss Parsippany), Seamus appears to be a natural-born troublemaker. Burns (aka author Tricia Rayburn) has hold of a fantastic premise—what’s not to like about a school where pranks and destruction are encouraged and an arsenal of troublemaking devices are available for purchase? It’s easy to get drawn into this fast-paced, funny, and entertaining adventure, filled with sympathetic, eccentric, and mischievously talented characters. At its heart, it’s a story about the importance of individuality and being a good friend, and a last-minute twist will leave readers hungry for the next book. Ages 8–12.
--Publishers Weekly, April 9, 2012