The 7th graders at Washington Academy Middle School “stage” a coup (read, are assigned to create a 7th grade experience after a bloodless revolution) and spend a chapter or so trying to determine what an optimal 7th grade experience would be (by committee). While voting on a proposal, the 7th graders discover that the FBI has, surreptitiously, evacuated the rest of the school and are preparing to search for a treasure of national importance. What ensues is a race against the clock as the 7th graders decipher historical clues and develop defensive strategies to keep the FBI off the trail.
There were aspects of this book that I really loved: I am a huge fan of The Goonies, so any madcap adventure with a ragtag group of kids gets a quick thumbs up from me. I also love historical mysteries, so the clues that the kids were solving had potential to really engage me. Also, I have a policy background, so the early pages of 7th grade revolution and self-determination had great potential. That said, I felt like all of these components were short-changed because all of these components were jammed into the story. For example, the threat that the FBI posed did not seem real to me – they were a ‘big bad’ that showed up, got rid of all the other kids (what did they tell the teachers and the parents of those kids? Why was it up to the 7th graders to save the school?), and menaced the 7th graders, while barely setting foot in the school. Was this all folie à plusieurs where the 7th graders heard a threat, but the threat really was not significant? I had many other questions, as well, that were not clearly addressed: why was the treasure such a threat? Why did the eccentric who willed his home to the school have the treasure in the first place? Why couldn’t we have more of the adventure in the cavern?
That said, I did rip through the story, and I think the sketches of characters were compelling and would be resonant for 7th graders and younger children. I really do wish Ms. Gardner had made this one book into several different stories, as I think there was plenty of material and many of the children could have their characters developed more richly. (I really would grade this at about 2.5 stars.) Finally, I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review.