Preteen twins Coke and Pepsi McDonald find themselves battling for their lives while visiting some of America's premier roadside attractions. The prospect of a summer trip from California to Washington, D.C., in a rented RV has the twins underwhelmed—until several murder attempts make a getaway considerably more appealing. It seems that Coke and Pepsi have been unknowingly co-opted into a Secret Government Program, and their first mission is simply to stay alive as mysterious assassins follow them and their oblivious parents on a wandering itinerary from Nevada's Singing Sand Dunes to the SPAM Museum in Austin, Minn., to the rococo House on the Rock in Iowa County, Wisc. Encouraging readers to follow along, Gutman tucks Google Map directions and small photographs into the margins while salting his tale with coded messages and rousingly icky brangles involving the RV's septic system and a giant tank of liquefied SPAM, along with his usual generous measures of quick action and snarky repartee. He also leaves the McDonalds with at least 1,000 more miles of giant statues and other local wonders to visit—so stay tuned for Part Two. (Adventure. 10-12)Copyright Kirkus 2010 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.
In the first book in the Genius Files series, "almost-teenager" twins Coke and Pepsi get caught up in a secret society of brilliant kids chosen to save the nation from terrorists. With an abundance of photographs, clip art-style illustrations, and reader-directed asides--"Ordinarily in a story, this is where the author tells the readers what the main character... look like.... But you know what? Who cares?"--Gutman unfolds his story quickly, and, within pages, readers will be invested in the twins' adventures. After learning someone wants to kill them, they set out on a cross-country RV trip with their parents, receiving death threats, meeting bad guys, and thwarting every evil plan, while making pit stops at such quirky (real) destinations as a Pez museum in Burlingame, Calif., and two gigantic balls of twine in Kansas and Minnesota. Coke and Pepsi are amusing (if accidental) heroes, and their parents are the perfect parody of clueless, overenthusiastic grownups. There is no shortage of humor or action, though the oddball brand of danger shouldn't frighten younger readers. All in all, Gutman continues to do what he does best: entertain readers. Ages 8-12. (Feb.)[Page ]. Copyright 2010 PWxyz LLC
Gr 5-8--On an ordinary day, Coke, 12, and his twin sister, Pepsi, are chased along a cliff path by a man wearing a bowler hat and driving a golf cart. This is only the first of a series of events in which people, including their health teacher, try to kill them. Eventually they learn that after 9/11, a man who survived the attack at the Pentagon developed a plan, outlined in what came to be called The Genius Files project, to identify children who will solve the world's problems. Based on their standardized test scores, Coke and Pepsi are chosen to be in the first Young American Geniuses group. But before the two can begin to fully grasp this fact, they are whisked away on a cross-country road trip with their parents, stopping off at many wacky tourist traps. Along the way they find ciphers giving them clues to potential attempts on America that they need to try to stop. While this is a fun and mostly funny adventure, it has many plot holes and suffers from poor character development. The Genius Files is only marginally explained and the ending peters out with an attempt at a cliff-hanger. Gutman sprinkles the book with interesting photos and instructions for following the children on their journey, making it a great road-trip novel about offbeat side excursions, but the mystery aspect doesn't quite fit.--Necia Blundy, Marlborough Public Library, MA[Page 162]. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.