The Ambrose Deception is the kind of book that middle school students will effortlessly enjoy. It’s the story of three middle school students who have nothing in common, but are randomly chosen to compete for a $10,000 scholarship. Getting middle school students to read for fun can be challenging. If you ask them, some will respond that they read enough in school and where’s the closest video game I’m bored? To that end, The Ambrose Deception is a very fast paced book that’s smart without being (too) smarmy that has something for every kid to latch onto.
The book ticks off every major social click. There’s Melissa, the loner, Wilf, the slacker and Bondi, the smart kid. The three attend different schools and are chosen to participate in the Kaplin/Baron $10,000 Scholarship. Two of the three think that there must be some mistake or that the scholarship itself isn’t above board.
However, they all meet up with their assigned driver and are provided with an overview in how to compete for the scholarship. Each student was given a cell phone, three clues and a driver, the first student to successfully answer each clue and report them will win the prize. It’s here where the other main character, the City of Chicago enters the picture. While not a travelogue per sea, the detailed descriptions of the cities architecture makes one want to visit the windy city, just not in winter.
It’s also at about this point in the book where middle school readers will really become engaged in the book due to its effective and unique presentation. At times using text messages, memos, crudely drawn pictures, to-do lists, post it notes from the school’s perspective and more the style makes the already briskly paced book go by even easier. Add to that the fact that some chapters are organized by the day of the week, while others are focused on Melissa, Wilf or Bondi.
The result to all of this is a book whose story is not what readers initially think it is. Shortly after starting the competition each player suspects that all is not what it seems and they are correct. Even older readers will be left surprised by the time the final pieces come together to reveal a very satisfying conclusion. For us the book tracks near The Book Scavenger, a series that has character of a similar, playful nature that also made it very fun to read.
The content in The Ambrose Deception will be OK for middle elementary school students, but some of the vocabulary will be too difficult for that age. Upper elementary students, if they are great readers, will be able to fully enjoy the book without tagging up for help from an older sibling or parent. The Ambrose Deception is by Emily Ecton and on the surface doesn’t leave much room for a sequel. However, the affable qualities of the characters in the book should make parents want to seek out more of Ecton’s work.