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NEVER SAY GENIUS (The Genius Files #2)

Author: Dan Gutman

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Publisher: Harper, an Imprint of HarperCollins Publishers,

Material: hard cover

Summary: What could be more fun than celebrating your 13th birthday with your twin? Well, "fun" is a relative term for Coke and Pepsi McDonald! Especially when it means traveling across country with their parents. In an RV! With an unknown someone slipping them notes; and more unknown someones trying to kill them. Is going to their aunt's wedding in Washington, DC, really worth all this? Never Say Genius picks up where Mission Unstoppable left off: Spring Green, Wisconsin.

Type of Reading: bedtime story, family reading, anytime reading, read aloud book, independent reading

Recommended Age: read together: 9 to 12; read yourself: 10 to 13

Interest Level: 9 to 12

Reading Level: 4.8

Age of Child: Read by an 11-year-old girl. Also read by the Teen STAR Review Team, Be the Star You Are!™

Young Reader Reaction: 11YO: Having breezed through Mission Unstoppable, we thought our daughter would love this book. She got about halfway through and decided it had gotten to repetitive / tedious.
BTSYA: Dan Gutman sucks readers in with his instructions for the real locations that the McDonald family visits. Using Google Maps, Coke and Pep’s journey comes alive and gives us a lesson in US geography. We even get fun state trivia though the quirky museums and exhibits! I enjoyed learning about all of the weird things that become tourist attractions, like the biggest pair of shoes and the largest outhouse collection. This book is for parents as much as it is for kids. It illustrates hilarious truths about family relationships. Everyone will laugh out loud and come back together for the next book in the series.

Adult Reader Reaction: The action is nonstop - and so is the laughter. The story has a "Phineas and Ferb" meets "Spy Kids" feel to it. Because of that, I could see how our pre-teen decided to abandon the book. I kept reading, largely because I loved the pictures and some of the sight-seeing stops.

Pros: Good guys, bad guys, peril, and survival - with a heavy dose of humor! - will keep kids turning the page in this cross-country adventure.

Cons: None, really. Some readers may be turned off by the idea that there are bad guys trying to kill two teens, but the antics are over-the-top and completely unrealistic (in a Hollywood kind of way).

Borrow or Buy: Buy! Odds are that if your pre-teen / teen has read (and loved) Mission Unstoppable, they'll want this, too. With the map / route sidebars and code, your kids will probably be wearing out the pages, anyway.


Educational Themes: The author does a great job of guiding kids along the story. From including pictures of actual tourist sites, to making recommendations on how to map their route. Mostly, though, this is a book to read for fun.

Notes: The publisher donated a copy of this book knowing that we would consider it for review and provide an independent, unbiased profile. This book will be given to a nonprofit to help readers in need.

Literary Categories: Fiction - adventure, mystery, fantasy, spies, series

Date(s) Reviewed: October 2014, September 2015

Other Reviews: See Critics' Reviews and reader feedback at and


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