Cadel Piggott has a genius IQ and a fascination with systems of all kinds. At seven, he was illegally hacking into computers. Now he’s fourteen and studying for his World Domination degree, taking classes like embezzlement, misinformation, forgery, and infiltration at the institute founded by criminal mastermind Dr. Phineas Darkkon. Although Cadel may be advanced beyond his years, at heart he’s a lonely kid. When he falls for the mysterious and brilliant Kay-Lee, he begins to question the moral implications of his studies for the first time. But is it too late to stop Dr. Darkkon from carrying out his evil plot?
An engrossing thriller with darkness and humor, freaks and geeks, Evil Genius explores the fine line between good and evil in a strange world of manipulations and subterfuge where nothing is as it seems. (via Goodreads)
Evil Genius is the first of three books in the Genius series by Catherine Jinks. It was originally published on January 1, 2005, and my sister picked this up in our local thrift store on a whim.
Cadel Piggot is a very young genius with a penchant for the devilish. At 7, Cadel is caught illegally hacking into computers. With the help of his evil-enabling therapist, Dr. Thaddeus Roth, Cadel made contact with his father, criminal mastermind Dr. Phineas Darkkon. They help build him into a truly wicked 14-year-old. He built an online dating site called “Partner Post” where he creates the perfect partner for anyone who signs up, and he later goes on to attend The Axis Institute. The Axis Institute might seem the perfect place for a young genius, but it turns out to be deadly for many of Cadel’s classmates, all of whom are also trying to be super villains.
This book was a wild ride from start to finish, but I wasn’t so wild about it. The premise of a young evil genius is a good one, one that I’ve read in other books and enjoyed, but it didn’t completely work for me. There were a couple of things that really bothered me about this novel.
The biggest thing that bothered me were throwaway comments throughout the novel about one of Cadel’s teachers who is said to be autistic. This teacher was great with numbers and math, so he was the professor of Accounting – or Embezzlement, for those in the know about The Institute’s real coursework. Cadel is searching through all of the emails on the server at one point during the novel, and comes across an email from another professor complaining about the autistic professor being paid the same wage as her. Later, Cadel tries to give the autistic professor some information via a mathematical formula, which sends him basically into shock. Like, can’t be woken or interacted with, shock. Those are basically this professor’s only main plot points in the novel, and the last we hear of him is Dr. Roth saying even injecting him with drugs wouldn’t wake him. This really bothered me. I’m all for inclusion of neurodivergent characters, but they deserve better than this crappy stereotype.
The other part that really bothered me was that most of Cadel’s classmates died over the course of the novel, through one mishap or another, but literally no one comes looking for any of them. All of them had different skills, but most of their skills were never put into use throughout the story. It felt like they were just there to make the reader feel bad for them, and they could have had a much better purpose. Also, I called the major plot twist by the end of the fourth chapter.
There were parts of this that I enjoyed. I enjoyed the thrill of the chase at the end of the novel and all of the messes that Cadel got himself into with his work. The crazy schemes were very fun. I just really wish he’d treated his minor characters with more respect. I’m rating this novel 3 stars because there were good parts, but I didn’t like it much. If you’re looking for something in this range, I highly recommend the Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer. It had everything that was good about this novel, and much more.