Wipe Out! Science Fair by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson
Toby Harbinger, backpack slung over his left shoulder, hurried through the halls of Hubble Middle School. His goal was to get to Gifted Science before the ME kids got there.
ME was short for Manor Estates, a development of giant houses that cost millions of dollars and had more bathrooms than people. Toby knew that, based on the laws of averages, there should be at least one Manor Estates kid who was not a total jerk, but so far he had not met that kid.
The ME kids stuck together. They wore expensive clothes that were designed to look used. They made fun of kids who wore clothes that really were used.
Such as Toby.
Tony's used to being called Hardbonger and having his sneakers ridiculed daily. But when he thinks he's on the trail of hard evidence that the ME kids are paying to have someone build their prize-winning science fair entries, he's had enough. With his friends Micah and Tamara, he gets his hands on a crucial piece of evidence, a buying list of top-security high tech hardware and tails the ME kids to a dark little mall shop called The Science Nook where the quirky owner seems to be taking orders from the kids for projects constructed from these components. So all Toby has to do is turn over his evidence to his hard-nosed principal, a.k.a., The Hornet, and all wrongs will be righted, right?
But what Toby doesn't (yet) know is that Hubble Middle School's lowly science fair is the nexus of a sinister plan to bring down the government and economy of the entire United States, a plot which involves a sleeper cell embedded at the school--one brilliant terrorist dispatched by the crude but power-mad ruler of Kprshtskan whose malevolent ploy is to use the clueless ME students' projects as the matrix of a move to take over the entire power grid of North America.
"It's an electromagnetic pulse," said Sternabite. "It's usually detonated by a nuclear detonation, but there are other ways. That's what's going on here." Sternabite pointed toward the ME kids' projects. "He's going to shut the power down again, and then he's going to discharge a capacitor bank into the grid. He's going to fry all the electronics in Washington, D.C. You understand what that means?"
"No," said Turow, "And I--"
"It means the government goes down. Most of the federal government computers are lost, along with a major chunk--a huge chunk of data. All erased. There are no records, no communications, no money coming in or going out. .... The economy goes, civil society collapses, and the United States stumbles back to the Stone Age."
All this sounds like the plot for a grim sci fi thriller, littered with laser blasted bodies. But pro writers Ridley Pearson's and Dave Barry's latest collaboration, Science Fair is actually one of the funniest middle school sagas you'll ever read. Barry and Pearson are equal-opportunity satirists who manage to skewer everyone--from the pompous President of the United States to bumbling FBI men, sweaty middle school teachers catering to privileged pupils and their powerful but oblivious parents, two wild-and-crazy-guys/terrorists from a central Eurasian country with a fondness for the home shopping network, and authentically costumed middle-aged Star Wars groupies. There are levitating frogs, a giant Mentos and Diet Coke experiment which floods Hubble Middle's gym with a tsunami of zero calorie foam, and even the Oscar Meyer Weinermobile which stars in the story's final chase scene.
In almost 400 quick-turning pages and a laugh a minute, this one will keep middle readers (and all fans of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Dave Barry's inimitable wit and style) engrossed and chuckling all the way to the closing page, which ends with a tantalizing foreshadowing of a sequel. That's a good thing, because Science Fair is one of those genuinely funny books which makes you genuinely sad to finish.
And for a tantalizing trailer (yes, books now have trailers) take a sneak peek here.