3 out of 4 stars
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Alvin Mastermind was just a teenager when his parents died. General Atkin, who was like an uncle to him, became his guardian. When Mastermind was asked to deliver messages for the General, he was happy to do that. However, he started getting suspicious, so he decided to read a message and discovered that he was delivering secret information to Russian spies. Unable to hide his discovery from the General, he got framed for espionage activities. He managed to run away, but how long can he escape capture when he's the most wanted man in the USA?
Mastermind by Alyson Corgatelli is an action-packed spy story about a teenager who gets mixed up with the wrong people he had the misfortune to trust. Some flashbacks tell the beginning of the story with Alvin Mastermind's parents' death and how he got framed for espionage. Most of the novel is about him trying to clear his name and prove that General Atkin is the traitor. His story is told in part in the first person, as a sort of diary of the protagonist, and in part in the third person, with the possibility for the author to focus on other important characters and to recount events Mastermind didn't witness.
The novel is engaging thanks to its fast pace, with the constant danger threatening Alvin Mastermind keeping the tension high. Some twists make the plot more intriguing keeping the readers' interest even when there's little or no action, adding to the enjoyment.
Not everything is perfect in the novel's development. In one of the chapters told in the first person, Alvin Mastermind comments that for years of his life he was in fear of being caught. However, in the final part of the novel, he's seventeen. At the beginning of the novel, he comments he started doing errands for General Atkin before he was seventeen, but from the recount of his escape, which includes a physical confrontation with the police, it seems unlikely that he was much younger. Actually, for a seventeen-year-old boy, he seems very skilled when he faces the police as sometimes it seems too easy for him to escape capture.
There are some other bits of the story that seem forced and require a suspension of disbelief. The novel also contains some errors, though they're less than 10, so I'm not forced to take a star away from my rating because of them. My impression is that Mastermind is a good novel that needs some polishing concerning grammar and plot consistency. For these reasons, my rating is 3 out of 4 stars. It contains neither profanities nor sexual references. For this reason and the protagonist's young age, I find it particularly suitable for teenagers. In general, I recommend it to readers who like action-packed thrillers that are not too sophisticated.
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