Elements of Genius #1: Nikki Tesla and the Ferret-Proof Death Ray

Book Information
Rating: Excellent
Reading/Interest Level: Intermediate
Author: Jess Keating
Illustrator: Lissy Marlin
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Year: 2019
ISBN: 9781338295214
Pages: 274

Nikki is a genius, she’s even smart enough to build her own death ray. But when things go wrong, the government steps in to send her to Genius Academy. With only 6 other students, each of them super smart, the Academy is so much more than she expected. But when things go wrong again and Nikki’s death ray is stolen, it is up to all these kids find the culprit. Traveling from Italy to Switzerland they must learn to work together and trust one another as they face their greatest fears in order to survive.

This is a fun and entertaining read that has an X-Men feel, as the kids keep getting calls from people like the Queen of England to solve crimes. The characters feel like real kids with their own fears and thoughts. The author does this by adding details normal to real life, such as blithely commenting that Nikki works her jaw to pop her ears, and describing how she feels when she’s lying and freaking out inside. Illustrations like a diagram of how to appear guilty according to Nikki and a “meet the gang” picture on the dust jacket are helpful. Though the cover may lead you to think this is a book about a ferret trying to steal a death ray, it really is more about learning to trust one another, friendship, and honesty.