The Boy Genius Detective Agency: Volume I
By Robert Grey
The Boy Genius Detective Agency surprised me. I’ll say that first. I wasn’t so sure about it when I heard the title and then read the description, it all seemed a little … out there. But every book deserves a chance so I thought, could it be any stranger than the stuff I write?
Not at all.
Actually, The Boy Genius Detective Agency is really good! It’s not written for people in their early twenties but that just goes to show how intriguing the story really was. I was taken hostage by Grey’s writing right from the start. It opened with a pretty witty scene between a boy lying in bed and his mother fussing from the kitchen. Classic writing. The dialogue was very normal, a conversation I could actually imagine happening in real life, not just book life. And the way the world was built and the theme was explained was very smooth.
I really can’t tell you what a ‘gravity well’ is, I can’t break it down and explain the quantum physics behind it—if that’s even minutely correct—but Grey does and he does it well. He does it hilariously well. I found myself laughing out loud in many parts of this book. Phidias is an awesome main character, I loved watching him move through the story with his very adult-like attitude that’s actually complementary to the rest of the book. His maturity isn’t annoying, nor is it demeaning. Most ‘really smart’ protagonists get on my nerves. They can get really corny really quickly but not Phidias. Not only does he have a really cool name, he’s got a very human demeanor.
I know that might sound weird because he actually is human, but he’s also a genius and I can put together a really convincing argument that people as smart as Phidias are not human. What I mean when I say that Phidias is human is that he is very real. He is very believable and can transfer to reality very well. He’s not just a character, he is someone I could imagine that actually exists. Yes, he is ridiculously smart but he is also still a boy and we see that in his personality. In his frustrations and in his exchanges with others. He’s a very well-crafted and layered character that you don’t find so often in children’s fiction.
One thing I love about Grey’s writing; its sophistication. The Boy Genius Detective Agency is about a child who’s really really smart and decides to use all that knowledge to solve crimes with his two friends, Lollipop and Bubble Gum. These three are children, maybe 10-14, but the situations they face and their reactions to those situations are very well played out and very entertaining! Even though the agents face potentially life-threatening fights and chases, Phidias’ inner-thoughts provide a very light and humorous edge to the book, making it an enjoyable read for the young and old.
One of the best parts of this piece was its originality. I thought some of the names of the characters were silly but they fit the story well. The world and the plot was fun and easy to imagine. All that paired with Grey’s dynamic style of writing made for an awesome book I could definitely see as a best-seller for children’s fiction in the near future.
I felt like there was always something happening in this book and I mean that in a good way. I hate long books with too many unnecessary words, I hate it when stories are really extended to the point of just sucking out more action or more drama. This book doesn’t do that at all. It’s very fast-paced and to-the-point. While that may not be everyone’s style, it made me jump right into the story and reach the end before I’d even realized it. That being said, I won’t call this book a ‘quick read’. Yes, it wasn’t so long and yes, I’d finished it before I realized it, but Grey’s crafty and unique writing forced me to think while I read. I felt very active in reading this book. I wasn’t just sitting back and letting the words pass before my eyes, I was there and I was entertained.
If this were historical fiction, that wouldn’t be a surprise. If this were a psychological thriller it wouldn’t be a big deal. But this was written for an audience between ages 12-15. So to have that much depth in the plot and development in the characters was very impressive. I appreciated that part of Grey’s writing and I think anyone who’s willing to take an awesome, action-packed adventure will appreciate it too.
I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys quirky stories with a serious edge. Especially fans of comedy, friendship, and bits of fast-paced action here and there. The Boy Genius Detective Agency is a thrilling ride for children and young adults but don’t be surprised if parents begin to enjoy it too!