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“One minute you think you’ve got your life figured out. The next it shatters like a glass bowl hitting a stone patio. My father is the enemy,” Eli –Masterminds

Masterminds #1

by Gordon Korman 
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Eli Frieden has never left Serenity, New Mexico…why would he ever want to? Then one day, he bikes to the edge of the city limits and something so crazy and unexpected happens, it changes everything.

Eli convinces his friends to help him investigate further, and soon it becomes clear that nothing is as it seems in Serenity. The clues mount to reveal a shocking discovery, connecting their ideal, crime-free community to some of the greatest criminal masterminds ever known. The kids realize they can trust no one — least of all their own parents.

Masterminds has a slow start as it introduces the many characters and the town of Serenity. However, the story also has some heart-stopping moments, which all revolve around the kids trying to figure out the secret that all of the adults have been hiding. Many of the story’s events and explanations are far-fetched. Because of the unbelievable nature of the plot, readers will have to suspend their disbelief in order to enjoy the story.

The story revolves around five characters—Eli, Malik, Hector, Tori, and Amber—and each chapter changes between these characters’ points of view. The constantly shifting point of view is confusing, especially since the characters’ voices are all similar to each other. However, the changing point of view allows readers to understand some of the individual choices that the characters make. Despite this, when the kids discover the answer to the mystery, some of the characters’ reactions still seem extreme and inconsistent.

Readers who enjoy conspiracy theories and mysteries will enjoy Masterminds. The story has a unique premise and will leave readers debating the scientific question of nature vs. nurture. While not all of the events are believable, the suspense and mystery make Masterminds an interesting story. The conclusion doesn’t wrap up all of the story’s threads, but leaves many unanswered questions which will be explored in the next book, Criminal Destiny. While Masterminds has some slow moments, Criminal Destiny picks up the pace in an exciting sequel. If you’re a mystery fan that would prefer a more logical mystery, the Theodore Boone Series by John Grisham would be a better choice.

Sexual Content

  • None


  • While trying to get out of town, a guard grabs Malik. Eli swings “his shovel around and I catch Alexander the Grape between the shoulder blades. He drops like a stone. . .” When another guard named Bryan comes after them, Eli tries to drive away. “There’s a thump on my running board. An indigo-sleeved arm reaches for me. The hand grabs my hair. It hurts.” One of the kids hits Bryan in the head with a hoe and he falls down.
  • Eli’s friends jump from a speeding truck before the truck goes over the edge of a mountain. They are not sure if Hector also jumped or died when the truck went over.
  • The kids catch a ride in a train car. When the cars stop, workers see the kids. When a worker grabs Tori, “Malik springs into action. He snatches up a full Gatorade bottle and bounces it with deadly accuracy off the side of the man’s jaw. The blow knocks him backward into the wall, and he releases Tori.” The kids run. Malik gets stuck under a pallet. Amber “leaps into the cab of the forklift, dislodging the driver.”

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • As Eli tries to leave town, he gets sick and has to stay home for two weeks. During his time at home, Eli is given pills. He thinks the pills are supposed to make him forget what happened.


  • There is some name calling including, loser, idiot, moron and stupid. The name calling happens infrequently.
  • After reading a note from Randy, Malik says, “Hardaway was always a wing nut. . .What a doofus.”
  • Eli thinks his dad is a doofus.
  • Eli calls Harold “stupid.”
  • “Oh my God” is used as an exclamation once.
  • When Eli discovers he has been cloned from a criminal, he hopes his DNA didn’t come from a bonehead.
  • The kids call some of the factory workers the “Purple People Eaters.” Someone makes names for them like “Alexander the Grape.”


  • None

Spiritual Content

  • During a thunderstorm, Malik is “praying that it would be over.”
  • When there is a plumbing emergency at Eli’s house, he prays that Hector’s dad can fix it.
  • Eli and his friends discover a scientific research project called Osiris. “Osiris is the Egyptian god of the afterlife.”
Other books by Gordon Korman 
Other books you may enjoy

“One minute you think you’ve got your life figured out. The next it shatters like a glass bowl hitting a stone patio. My father is the enemy,” Eli –Masterminds

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