The Quick Fix by Jack D. Ferraiolo is the second middle grade crime novel in the Matt Stevens, middle school detective series (available October 1, 2012).
When the star of the basketball team is blackmailed, it’s up to Matt, the lone voice for justice in a morass of middle school corruption, to figure out who’s behind the scheme. Is it eighth-grade crime lord Vinny “Mr. Biggs” Biggio, who made his name peddling forged hall passes and leading a crew of social assassins who vanquish enemies with a humiliating squirt-gun blast below the belt? Is it Vinny’s lieutenant, and Matt’s former best friend, Kevin? Or is it a pair of scheming twins who sell Pixy Stix to sugar-addicted classmates? One thing’s for sure: There won’t be a quick fix for the trouble at this middle school.
Matt Stevens is his name and detecting is his game: he can solve riddles, settle disputes, fight the good battle, and much more. And he has a great sense of humor.
“You’re a detective, right?” she asked in a loud whisper.
“I have my moments.”
“I want to hire you.”
“Sorry,” I said, “but none of my cheers rhyme and I look lousy in a skirt.”
The girl who wants to hire him is Melissa Scott, a beautiful cheerleader.
She had big blue eyes and blond shoulder-length hair, carefully styled to look carelessly towel-dried. She was thin and athletic, and I’m pretty sure her legs would’ve kept going if the floor hadn’t been there to stop them.
Now, how can one say no to a girl like that? Matt definitely can’t, so he takes the job, which will lead him to another one and another, until all of a sudden he’ll find himself so busy that his time will become more precious than gold.
That makes sense in a way, since these are turbulent times at Franklin Middle School. Crime is on the rise, and more and more innocent kids are becoming victims of vicious acts. Matt seems to be the only kid who has the courage it takes to stand between the villains and the innocents and bring justice to his small world. But that won’t be easy, because the enemies are plenty and they don’t play fair.
However, in a way, one could say that Matt’s stronger than they are, since he is a very observant guy, a student of the human psyche, so he’s not only interested in the appearances of people and things but also in what they hide behind them. And finally he’s a lover of learning; info, that’s the ultimate weapon in his arsenal, in combination with his wit of course.
The man who knows almost everything about what’s going on around the school, and whom Matt must approach in order to solve the cases, is the biggest villain, his nemesis and part-time employer, Vinny, the guy who puts more students than anyone else in the Outs, the club—if one could call it so—of the losers.
Kids in the Outs came in all shapes and flavors: ordinary kids who got themselves over their heads with candy or gambling debts; populars who thought their status allowed them to get away with anything; former employees of Vinny’s who got a little greedy. No one was untouchable. There was no such thing as being too good or too tough or too popular. If you got splashed you were in the Outs. End of story.
Well, Matt being who he is and doing what he is doing, needs to keep an eye over his shoulder all the time; when he doesn’t have them both on Liz Carling that is. Liz is the younger sister of his former best friend Kevin, and even though she’s not as pretty as the other girls she’s really smart. As Matt says: “You took her lightly at your own risk.”
My, oh my, what a busy guy! Detective, protector, a man in love, and, oh yeah, a student. His life is really complicated, and things are not going to get any easier as time goes by, since more and more people will come to depend on him. Sometimes he’ll have doubts about himself. At other times he’ll feel like flying. But all the time he’ll want to do the right thing, even if that means that he’ll have to pay for it.
In this beautifully written novel there’s something for everyone: action, mystery, young love, humor, family drama, and lots more. The author does a great job inhabiting a young man’s body and mind, and delivers a story that sounds as true as they come, and, yes, just as cruel, since, as Matt points out, “middle school was rotten.” I guess there are many young readers out there who share exactly the same feeling
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Lakis Fourouklas has published four novels and three short-story collections in Greek. He’s currently translating his work into English and blogs at Fiction & More. He also keeps a few blogs in Greek regarding general fiction, Japanese literature, and crime fiction. Follow him on Twitter: @lakisf. He lives in the wilderness of Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Read all posts by Lakis Fourouklas for Criminal Element.