Seventh grader Oliver Watson is so smart the world thinks he’s a dummy. In fact, he is the evil genius behind a multi-billion dollar, multi-national empire. He’s good at his manipulation as his parents think he is dummy, his classmates think he is a dummy, and so do his teachers. When a classmate snarkily nominates Oliver to run for eighth class president, Oliver declines until he realizes his father once held the title and holds that memory dear to his heart. See, Oliver has contempt for his father. Apparently Oliver is so intelligent that he has memories from his earliest infancy; where his father realized his having a son meant lost youth. At that moment, at 2 days old, Oliver decided that he would play dumb.
If he couldn’t love me for simply being what I appeared to be, he didn’t deserve to know the greatness that lurked within. I resolved at that moment never to care what Daddy thought, never to give him an inkling of what a magnificent monster he had sired. He meant nothing to me.
So, since daddy won his school election, Oliver decides to do whatever it takes to win his: pay-off, manipulations, and even staging a coup in an African country (an important and funny element in the story). Oliver says he doesn’t crave his father’s love and attention, but it sure felt like it to me. The queen bee of the 7th grade class takes “Tubby” under her wing and becomes his campaign manager. The girls befriend Oliver’s mom who becomes of the pack in her effort to get Oliver elected.
There were some very clever moments to the story. Like Artemis Fowl, Oliver has an arsenal of goons and thugs at his disposal. If someone makes fun of him, his three bodyguards known only to him as Pistol, Bardolph, and Nim quietly take care of any situation. Oliver has a frontman for his billions, recovering alcholic Lionel Sheldrake who looks and acts the part.
I found the tone of this book to be contemptible, mean-spirited, and cynical. And there were entirely too many footnotes in this book (118 footnotes for a 303 page book) they distracted me from reading the book. Some of the footnotes could have easily been segued into the story, while others seemed like parenthetical statements. In my book, Oliver isn’t an evil genius, rather an unsocialized little brat who needs some manners in getting along well with others.
According to the author’s note, Josh Lieb is the Executive Producer of The Daily Show. I question the audience for this book. If it’s for the young adult crowd (as the quote from Jon Stewart and Judd Apatow would indicate), why make Oliver a 7th-grader? Shouldn’t he be slightly older? If it is for the 10 – 14 crowd as both Kirkus and Booklist indicate, I don’t see the appeal.