Title: Greetings from Witness Protection! |Author: Jake Burt |Publisher: Feiwel & Friends |Genre: Middlegrade |368 pages
I saw this book at Molly’s @Silver Button Books and I was so intrigued, I had to look it up and read it immediately. I was still not prepared for how much I would like it.
Nicki Demere is an orphan and a pickpocket. She also happens to be the U.S. Marshals’ best bet to keep a family alive. . . The marshals are looking for the perfect girl to join a mother, father, and son on the run from the nation’s most notorious criminals. After all, the bad guys are searching for a family with one kid, not two, and adding a streetwise girl who knows a little something about hiding things may be just what the marshals need. Nicki swears she can keep the Trevor family safe, but to do so she’ll have to dodge hitmen, cyberbullies, and the specter of standardized testing, all while maintaining her marshal-mandated B-minus average. As she barely balances the responsibilities of her new identity, Nicki learns that the biggest threats to her family’s security might not lurk on the road from New York…
Let me tell you, I read the first two chapters and was in love. Jake Burt might be my new favourite Middlegrade author and is definitely the discovery of 2020 for me. I’m seriously considering to read this book again right now as I’m writing this review even though it’s been barely two months since I have finished it.
The whole idea of the book might be a little fantastical and not that logical. I think it’s that, that people who didn’t like it, have primarily found faults at. I mean how probable is it that the United States Marshals Service rely on a twelve year old to keep some crown witnesses safe? You could look at this book, read the blurb and think, man, this is just some cheesy Middlegrade thing.
But it’s not. This book is far more insightful than I would have first thought, dealing with mental illness, stress, school bullies and lots of other stuff. While reading I felt so immersed into this world and family and felt so close to the characters.
The book is told in first person by Nicky – Charlotte that is – an orphan that had quite a few brushes with the law, despite being only twelve years old. She is smart and determined to keep her new family safe but also has her own dark past and problems. I love how Nicky is portrayed. Her mental health issues are not glossed over but a part of the story, without dragging the story down. With Jake Burt I feel like – and I have read some of his other books by now as well – that he really knows children. Every action Nicky and the other children in the books take, it feels real and natural and not over the top. Nicky had problems and had issues and had put so much on her shoulders but still you could tell that she is a kid that does kid-stuff and is silly despite all the dark and scary stuff that goes around her.
The story itself is engaging and has just the right amount of tension. It has friendship, it has family. I just felt great reading it, exploring the new dynamics Nicky finds herself in and seeing what she does with it.
The greatest thing about this is the found family trope. And it’s not only that. While parents in Middlegrade books are often rubbish – or gone or sick or oblivious – this book is great at parent portrayal. While much of this book is about Nicky trying to keep her new parents safe, there is at some point, sneaking in there, a turning point. Nicky goes from protecting to being protected by her new parents. It was pulled off so well, I’m a little starstruck.
All in all, I was surprised and never disappointed in this book. I loved the story, I loved the characters, I loved the writing, I loved the found-family-trope and how well Jake Burt has pulled it off. It might seem a little far-fetched at times but hey, it’s a Middlegrade book and I guess that let’s you get away with some things. I had great fun reading it, rushed through it and had a great time.