Lieb, J. (2009). I am a genius of unspeakable evil and I want to be your class president. New York, NY: Razorbill.
Plot Summary: When Oliver is first nominated for class president he turns the offer down. Everyone thinks he is the biggest idiot in the entire school but secretly he is an evil genius and the third richest person in the world. When his father inspires him to re-enter the race, so he can prove he is superior to him of course, he uses all of his evil genius resources to rig the election. He also meddles in the lives of his teachers, arranges for a political coup in Africa, and secretly showers a girl he hates in presents during his campaign. When voting day finally comes he has the perfect speech all planned out and is sure he can win or at least make his rigging the election look real. This is ruined when his opponent makes an inspiring speech that Oliver’s dad loves. Oliver looses it and gives a speech about how worthless the position of eighth grade class president really is totally blowing his idiot cover. He then panics and wets himself in a feeble attempt to cover for what he has just said. He runs away and is about to order the whole school be bombed into oblivion when his dad catches up to him and says he is proud of him for running the campaign and asks where he learned that speech. Having his fathers approval and a plausible cover for his sudden intelligence the book ends with Oliver calling off the bomb strike.
Critical Evaluation: At first glance this book appears to be geared towards slightly younger readers but as you get into the story it becomes apparent that older readers will get more enjoyment from the story. The book has some great social commentary about the evilness of rich people who do not specifically set out to do evil things but accomplish them with their all absorbing self interest. The final speech about the whole political system starting with meaningless school elections and going up to meaningless adult elections is also so darkly hysterical due to how true it rings. One of the greatest things about the book though is no truly knowing if Oliver is who he thinks he is. Throughout the book comments on Oliver’s weight indicate a disconnect between how he perceives his appearance and how he actually looks. This sets the seed of doubt in readers minds about how true his claims of genius are. Many of his actions are pretty outrageous and sound like the kind of stuff a dorky middle school kid might imagine to make himself feel better. However, there are also moments where other people notice his genius especially Tati the girl he hates but for some reason showers with secret gifts. The book makes it seem impossible for him to be as smart or powerful as he thinks he is but also equally impossible for this to all be in his head.
Reader’s Annotation: This is the story of Oliver the biggest idiot in his whole school at least that is what he wants you to believe he is actually an evil genius.
Author Information: Josh Lieb is a producer for The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and has also worked on shows like the Simpsons. This is his first novel and he lives in New York.
Booktalk Ideas: 1) Do you believe that Oliver is really as smart or evil as he thinks he is?
2) Do you think Tati realizes how smart Oliver really is or that he is behind the prizes her mom always wins?
Reading Level & Interest Level: The book is listed as being for readers age 12-17 and though the book takes place in middle school I think that teens will be more interested in the humor of the book.
Challenge Issues: For a book about an evil genius this book is pretty tame there are a few explosions, threats of violence, bullying, and crude behavior but this is all pretty mild. The book is well reviewed and makes a unique addition to the collection.
Why is it included?: This is a funny and strange book I wanted to include it because it is really unique.