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Karl Petrofsky has spent his years in school trying to hide the As on his papers. He sees himself more as a shy maverick than a geek. When the smoothest guy in high school asks him to aid and abet a ring of hightech cheaters, Karl flatly refuses. But then the tyrannical assistant principal makes an example of a hapless student—and threatens anyone caught cheating with expulsion and an indelible stain on their permanent records. This means war!

With a droll narrator and a ...

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Karl Petrofsky has spent his years in school trying to hide the As on his papers. He sees himself more as a shy maverick than a geek. When the smoothest guy in high school asks him to aid and abet a ring of hightech cheaters, Karl flatly refuses. But then the tyrannical assistant principal makes an example of a hapless student—and threatens anyone caught cheating with expulsion and an indelible stain on their permanent records. This means war!

With a droll narrator and a delightfully intricate plot, this satire of school pressures and modern-day ethics will provide welcome laughs between exams.

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Editorial Reviews

AGERANGE: Ages 11 to 18.

Karl Petrofsky is a high school junior and academic brainiac who is shy about his endless A+s. He creates oddball inventions in his garage for extracurricular entertainment and has three odd friends, Matt, Jonah, and sure-to-be-lesbian Lizette. Enter a villianous vice principal on a venomous vendetta for cheaters-particularly high-tech cheaters-whose verbal threats at a school assembly so offend Karl's sense of fairness that he agrees to do the unthinkable and help classmates cheat on tests. The fuel for his righteous anger at vice principal Klimchock nearly fizzles when he faces the enormity of what he has offered to do, but a few well-timed flirtatious moves by the comely Cara promptly redirect his resolve. Introduced to a ring of mismatched peers, he is surprised to learn the extent of cheating. At one point, he asks if it would not simply be easier to study and learn the material. He is handed a rationale that makes cheating logical-"School [serves] a warped society. Its purpose . . . is to sort . . . out-who gets to go to Harvard and who gets to clean toilets." Indeed "Cheating is integrity!" That Karl's parents want ivy league acceptances and tour campuses with him shortly after he has been caught cheating and given Klimchock's ultimatum brings bile to his throat. A light read well suited to reluctant readers, this novel parodies a rampant social problem. High tech cheating devices add entertainment and intrigue. Reviewer: Cynthia Winfield
April 2008 (Vol. 31, No. 1)

Karl is a brainy nerd, and so no one is more surprised than he when the cool kids suddenly take notice of him and start chatting him up. Of course, it's because they want him to share his test answers with them, using some high-tech devices. Flustered by the attentions of a pretty girl, Karl agrees, though he promptly regrets his decision. Not only do his old friends, including Lizette, the girl he's always liked, now disdain him, but the conniving assistant principal catches him and attempts to blackmail him. In addition, a determined student reporter is trying to get Karl to expose the cheaters, while a would-be politician wants Karl to help others cheat in order to raise SAT scores and therefore home values in their community. Karl must find a way to expose both the cheaters and the nasty adults without being forced to snitch on friends or sacrifice himself. In this rather sardonic look at high school pressures, the focus is mainly on Karl's dilemma, but the novel does raise the intriguing topic of who cheats and why. Some of the characters are a bit cartoonish and the plot is a little convoluted, but the story is played for laughs and along the way touches on some ethical issues that all students might want to consider. Age Range: Ages 12 to 18. REVIEWER: Paula Rohrlick (Vol. 42, No. 1)
Children's Literature - Jennifer Wood
To say cheating is an epidemic at brainiac Karl Petrofsky's school is like saying classmate Blaine Shore, with his good lucks and red Beamer, might be the envy of some students. In these technologically advanced times, Blaine and other students use a wide array of cheating tools: text messages sent to silenced cell phones, essays downloaded to laptops with wireless access, MP3s listing vital test information, and the list goes on. When Karl observes Blaine and another student, Ivan Fretz, cheating on an exam but the teacher only catches Ivan, Karl is faced with a dilemma. He has no plans to report the cheating, but Blaine takes Karl to lunch anyway and then surprises the boy genius by asking Karl to join Blaine's confederacy of cheaters (which includes flirty Cara, rebel Noah, prankster Tim, and techie Vijay among others). Karl then surprises everyone by agreeing, much to the dismay of his original friends. Although cheating is always a risky undertaking, the group faces increased scrutiny and greater punishments after the assistant principal holds an assembly in the wake of Ivan's dishonesty. A student journalist seeking a high-profile story and Karl's own promising future add even greater tension, which comes to a head at the SATs. Although the book may give students new ideas, it could also serve to alert teachers to these new methods and be a great springboard for discussing reasons students cheat, as well as the importance of not cheating. The assistant principal seems a bit stock in his vigilant war against cheating, and the principal himself plays the sort of man behind the curtain, but the characters are otherwise well developed and engaging. Reviewer: Jennifer Wood
School Library Journal

Gr 7 Up- What could induce Karl, a certified genius on track to be his high school valedictorian, to cheat? How about an unlikely stew of half-truths and deceptions cooked up by a confederacy of the school's cool crowd, heated to a low boil by the attentions of the beautiful Cara, and spiced by a taste for putting the morally bankrupt assistant principal Klimchock in his place? After Karl notices that Blaine, whom he heretofore thought of as Mr. Clean, is using his phone's text capability to cheat, Karl is recruited to join Blaine's disparate group of fellow cheaters who claim they just want to screw the system. The slimy Klimchock, having caught wind of the plan, throws down his own high-tech gauntlet, using hidden video cameras to ensnare Karl, to whom he offers an unlikely deal: he'll fake records for the teen's college applications if Karl will rat out his "friends." Meanwhile, the rotten stink gets worse-a local realtor/mayoral candidate is scheming to encourage more cheating because high SAT scores translate into high real-estate prices. Hopefully readers, perhaps attracted by the eye-catching cover, will persist past the stereotypes to enjoy Laser's heartwarming ending, as despite some loose ends and fuzzy logic, there are some funny, interesting characters to enjoy in this contemporary satire.-Joel Shoemaker, Southeast Junior High School, Iowa City, IA

Kirkus Reviews
When a student's life is laid waste by an evil school vice-principal with a McCarthy-like penchant for hunting down cheaters, geek genius extraordinaire Karl Petrofsky steps up to the plate and conspires to aid and abet a band of Robin Hood-like rogue cheaters in his high school. Cue the wiretaps, radio signals, iPods, hidden microphones and James Bond soundtrack. Make no mistake, though, this is not another tiresome title about the stress and angst of testing. Laser's wry, snarky narrator keeps the chuckles coming with an offstage drum roll-like pacing, and his slick action sequences fly like a spy novel, complete with enough cool gadgets and gizmos to keep Alex Rider entertained for weeks. The characters are offbeat, well-drawn and simultaneously slimy and lovable. The message isn't all yuks, however, especially when Laser uncovers an ugly political underbelly beneath the city's education system. The lines between right and wrong become skewed as Karl begins to question authority and his future, and what results is a full-on Animal Farm style attack on No Child Left Behind, where readers find themselves illicitly cheering for the underdogs. (Fiction. YA)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780525478263
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 2/14/2008
  • Pages: 240
  • Age range: 12 - 17 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.86 (w) x 8.56 (h) x 0.93 (d)

Meet the Author

Michael Laser, the author of Dark and Light: A Love Story and 6-321, lives in Montclair, New Jersey.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 4 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 3, 2011

    Simply Fabulous

    In my opinion, Cheater was an excellent novel and a must read for teens. If your into surprising endings, you will adore this book. This story takes place in high school, Karl Petrofsky is a very intelligent, quiet student with a lot of side, out of school, projects He does not like showing of his grades though, because that makes him a "nerd" as he would say. His classmates, who are not as smart as he is, have formed a secret society of cheaters. They use technologically advanced tools to cheat their ways through high school. One of their leaders, Cara, who is an attractive girl to Karl, offers him a spot in their organization, which he can not refuse. The teachers are on to them and make an example by expelling any cheater and writing it on there permanent records. Soon enough the principle soon catches Karl and tries to blackmail him, a student reporter wants him to reveal the cheaters to the community, and his group wants him to keep the secret. Karl must find a way to reveal the bribing adults, without revealing any of the cheaters, and without having to discover himself as a cheater as well. He soon learns the differences between what is wrong, and what is right. He learns a hard lesson at the end, and throughout the book questions his authority and his future. It is an excellent book by author Micheal Laser. Once you start reading it, you can't stop without thinking, "whats going to happen next?" It is full with shocking, twisting turns throughout the whole novel, and will always keep you guessing. I personally love this book because you never know what is going to happen next. He could be trying to get caught cheating and turn them in, or accidentally be caught and have to waste his bright future and career for others SAT scores. It also gives you thoughts throughout the whole novel, that really makes you think about wrong and right. His group of cheater friends say it is right because society just wants to separate the braniacs, from the stupid kids. It made me wonder between wrong, right, what is in between. It is an excellent novel and I give you one hundred percent recommendation with total satisfaction at the amazing end that is just waiting to be read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 2, 2009

    I Also Recommend:


    This book was okay. I loved the way he got everybody in the end. It surprised me and many ways. If you love surprises and romance then get this book.

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  • Posted October 27, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Reviewed by Jaglvr for

    Karl Petrofsky keeps a low profile as the brightest guy in his class. He has a group of misfit friends that are definitely NOT part of the popular crowd. But one day in class, he thinks he catches Blaine Shore, one of the "It" kids, cheating on a test. <BR/><BR/>Later, Blaine approaches Karl, and invites him to the local hang out for lunch with fellow "It" kids. There, Blaine presents Karl with the option of joining their little "Confederacy" of cheaters. Blaine explains to him that, unlike Karl who is blessed with being smart, the rest of them are simply lazy. They have at their disposal the latest gadgets to assist them in all manners of cheating. Karl is dumbstruck at their proposal, but is adamant in his refusal to help. <BR/><BR/>But the next day, the assistant principal is on a crusade to ferret out cheaters, and has made an example of a student. Anyone caught cheating will from then on have a permanent mark placed in their record for all future colleges to see. Karl is disgruntled and, lured by the gorgeous Cara, agrees to join Blaine and his band of cheaters. <BR/><BR/>It doesn't take long for Karl to regret his decision. Cara is caught and is expelled from school. Karl wants out, but is being blackmailed from many sides and the walls are slowly closing in. Karl is alone and unable to go to his parents for help. His former friends have deserted him, ashamed that he's joined the cheaters. The cheaters don't want to let him go, needing his smarts to keep their grades up. <BR/><BR/>Mr. Laser writes a fast-paced story that is fascinating to read. The technology that is used to create new ways to cheat just boggles the mind -- though is probably a reality. This is a convincing story of a boy caught up in the thrill of being popular, for even a small moment in time. The consequences make for an intriguing story of how Karl deals with all the twists and turns that come from cheating and how he tries to come out on top.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 19, 2008

    Awesome book

    In my opinion I feel that Cheater is an awesome book that every teen should read. This had to be one of my favorite books that kept me hooked on reading it.I also felt that this book dealt with many teenage problems that occur in our lives.I would recommend this book to someone who enjoys a book with social descison making, slight romance, and a book that keeps you at the edge of your seat.

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