After one too many escapades, Jett Baranov, 12-year-old heir to a Silicon Valley empire, is shipped off to the Oasis of Mind and Body Wellness in Arkansas, where, stripped of technology and subjected to vegetarian food and yoga, he’s expected to mend his ways. Jett isn’t so easily thwarted, however: if he can’t get kicked out, he’ll bend every rule to breaking, even going into the candy-smuggling business to disrupt the program’s routine. After fellow attendee Grace Atwater, who actually enjoys the retreat, finds a stray lizard, Jett joins her and others, including Brooklynne Feldman, resident girl of mystery, and allergic-to-everything Tyrell Karrigan, in caring for the illicit pet and sneaking out to a nearby town. When the group discovers inconsistencies in the Oasis’s management style, Jett must overcome his own reputation as a troublemaker and expose a cunning mastermind. Korman injects his signature dry humor throughout, but Jett’s persistent obnoxiousness can drown out the other alternating first-person narratives, and many of the story’s twists are telegraphed early on, resulting in an entertaining if predictable arc. Ages 8–12. Agent: Elizabeth Harding, Curtis Brown. (Jan.)
ALA Booklist (starred review)
A provocative take on the redemptive power of friends and pets.
School Library Journal
Gr 3–5—Jett Barnov is the most spoiled kid in Silicon Valley, and he is always getting into trouble. Finally, his father sends him to a retreat at The Oasis of Mind and Body Wellness in the middle of Arkansas. This retreat, complete with no meat, no pets, and worst of all, no screens of any kind, is meant to help Jett get his act together. As a notorious bad boy, Jett wreaks havoc throughout the retreat; but then he finds a strange lizard, and entices a few other kids to help take care of it. Together, they uncover some mysterious happenings at the oasis, and link them to the unknown lizard and enigmatic millionaire in town. This plot-driven, intriguing story is told through the viewpoints of four characters, so readers are likely to find one who resonates with them. The four narrators have well-developed personalities, although some of the secondary characters are flat and mostly used to move the narrative along. The antics are sometimes over the top but always amusing, and young readers will sympathize with the lack of access to daily creature comforts. Though not expressly a humor title, Korman also sets up some very silly situations, in his typical fashion. VERDICT This fast-paced, funny friendship story will delight realistic fiction readers and fans of Korman's work. A suggested purchase for middle grade collections.—Ellen Conlin, Naperville P.L., IL
The spoiled son of a Silicon Valley tech magnate is forced to spend the summer at a wellness retreat with no meat and no phones—and something fishy going on behind the scenes.
The last thing 12-year-old Jett Baranov wants to do is meditate at the cultlike Oasis of Mind and Body Wellness in Arkansas. He reluctantly befriends some of the other kids after Grace Atwater, an Oasis poster child, finds a strange lizard. Together with Tyrell Karrigan, who suffers constant allergies, and Brooklynne Feldman, who actively avoids the retreat’s activities, Grace and Jett care for the lizard and start making secret trips to the nearest town. They discover an eccentric gangster’s mansion and learn that everything might not be completely peaceful at the Oasis. The pieces come together in a mystery that touches, a bit incongruously, on the supernatural. Jett and his friends jump in to save the largely out-of-touch or even downright neglectful adults in an exciting climax of fireworks and alligators. The major detraction from this fun romp is the fact that none of the characters are particularly likable: The main cast of children includes a spoiled brat, a goody-two-shoes, and a doormat. Jett matures a little over the course of the story but not enough to make the indulged billionaire’s son truly sympathetic. Characters default to White.
A fun, low-tech summer adventure. (Fiction. 8-13)