Masterminds (Masterminds Series #1)

Masterminds (Masterminds Series #1)

4.7 13
by Gordon Korman

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"A terrific page-turner, full of unexpected twists and revelations. Buckle up."—James Patterson

The first book in a new action-packed series from New York Times bestselling author Gordon Korman is perfect for young fans of James Patterson and John Grisham. 

Eli Frieden lives in the most perfect town in the world: Serenity, New


"A terrific page-turner, full of unexpected twists and revelations. Buckle up."—James Patterson

The first book in a new action-packed series from New York Times bestselling author Gordon Korman is perfect for young fans of James Patterson and John Grisham. 

Eli Frieden lives in the most perfect town in the world: Serenity, New Mexico. Honesty and integrity are valued above all else. The thirty kids who live there never lie—they know it’s a short leap from that to the awful problems of other, less fortunate places.

Eli has never left Serenity . . . why would he ever want to? Then one day, he bikes to the edge of the city limits and something so crazy and unexpected happens, it changes everything. Eli convinces his friends to help him investigate further, and soon it becomes clear that nothing is as it seems in Serenity. The clues mount to reveal a shocking discovery, connecting their ideal crime-free community to some of the greatest criminal masterminds ever known. The kids realize they can trust no one—least of all their own parents.

Editorial Reviews

Praise for POP: “Fantastic…Perfectly captures the football experience.”
James Patterson
“A terrific page-turner, full of unexpected twists and revelations. Buckle up.”
ALA Booklist
Praise for UNGIFTED: “From its lovable-robot jacket art to its satisfying conclusion, this will please Korman’s fans and win him new ones.”
The New York Times Book Review
Praise for POP: “A brisk, heartfelt and timely novel.”
James Dashner
“It’s hard to express how much I loved MASTERMINDS without spoiling it. Real characters that make you laugh, twists that genuinely surprise, a plot that reveals itself perfectly. Another instant classic by one of my favorite authors.”
Tim Green
Praise for POP: “Funny, poignant and full of football action, POP hits you hard and doesn’t let up.”
Booklist (starred review)
“[A] compelling, twisty mystery . . . [with] a truly gratifying payoff”
Peter Lerangis
“Masterminds is a masterpiece - a mind-bending adventure in a shocking but all-too-possible present, a tale of friendship and ultimate sacrifice with characters who will reach inside you and not let go. It’s that rare book that scares you to the core while you’re laughing your head off.”
Brandon Mull
“Masterminds takes readers on wild ride with terrific humor, a surprising mystery, and characters you can’t help but root for.”
The New York Times Book Review - Lisa Von Drasek
[Korman] is the king of voice and setup, and he never fails to make me laugh out loud.
Publishers Weekly
Several teens learn that their idyllic small-town existence is a sham in this first entry in Korman’s Masterminds series. Serenity, N.Mex., has the best standard of living in the country, with zero unemployment and total peace and prosperity. Thirteen-year-old Eli and his friends have never known anywhere else. Honesty, harmony, and contentment aren’t just valued in Serenity, they’re a way of life. Then Eli and the others start to notice odd things: when they try to leave town, they get sick; their Internet is remarkably sanitized compared to outside sites they accidentally come across; and some kids are considered special, while others are less so. After they discover the truth about why Serenity is so peaceful, they must face the fact that their lives have been ruled by a gigantic lie. Rotating among several young narrators, Korman builds tension as the mystery unfolds, leading to several surprise twists that upend the status quo. While an awful lot of dumb luck is involved in the kids’ discoveries, this tense, fast-paced story will have readers racing toward the cliffhanger ending. Ages 8–12. (Feb.)
Children's Literature - Suzie Davis
Serenity, New Mexico, is the perfect small town. With a population of only 158, everyone knows everyone. There is no crime and any sort of bad behavior (lying, stealing, violence, etc.) is forbidden. Most of the children have never left Serenity, nor do they want to. Why would they, when they live in a Utopian society? But is it really as wonderful as they think? Eli and his friends (Tori, Malick, Hector and Amber) start to question everything they’ve ever known when Eli becomes violently ill while riding his bike to the outskirts of town with his best friend Randy. Shortly after that incident, Randy is sent away to Colorado to live with his grandparents, and Hector notices that there is dust on the supposedly brand new orange traffic cones being shipped out of Serenity’s factory (the town’s claim to fame and main employer). Eli discovers a note from Randy that says, “I’m not going to live with my grandparents. I’m being sent away to boarding school at McNally Academy in Pueblo, Colorado. I think it’s because of what happened when we went out on our bikes that day. I cannot explain how, but I get the feeling that some of the kids in Serenity—including you—are special, and I’m not…Protect yourself, Eli. There’s something screwy going on in that town.” He and his friends begin to investigate further. After breaking into the factory, they discover something more disturbing than they ever could have imagined. They realize they cannot trust anyone (not even their parents) and that they have to leave Serenity…and soon! Readers have another fast-paced adventure story from Korman that will keep them “on the edge of your seat” and wanting more. Reviewer: Suzie Davis; Ages 8 to 12.
School Library Journal
Gr 4–6—Serenity, New Mexico is an idyllic community for all its inhabitants. Everyone has everything they need and no one lies. As the local newspaper boasts, "Serenity Voted #1 in USA for standard of living." Eli has always been happy with his life and never had any reason to want to leave. One day though, while on a bike ride past the outskirts of town with his best friend Randy, Eli begins to feel sick. When he recovers from his illness he discovers that Randy, who convinced him to ride out, has to leave town. Randy tells everyone that he is going to his grandparents' house, but he is acting strange and no longer wants to hang out with Eli. After Randy leaves, Eli finds a note that makes him realize this may not be the perfect town after all. Eli and a few friends begin to uncover secrets and discover that honesty may not be at the heart of Serenity. They also realize that they can't trust anyone, especially not their parents. Korman has created a fun and creative story that delves into the philosophy of what makes us human and whether or not we are defined by our circumstances. Told in alternating voices, readers will get insight into life in Serenity and make life-changing discoveries with the characters. This unique and action-packed story is filled with twists and turns that readers will not see coming. A wonderful start to what promises to be a thrilling series.—Kristyn Dorfman, The Packer Collegiate Institute, Brooklyn, NY
Kirkus Reviews
With no unemployment, no homelessness and no crime, Serenity, New Mexico, is the perfect town. Or is it?When 13-year-old Eli Frieden attempts to bike past the town limits for the first time, he is struck with paralyzing nausea and pain that makes him wonder if Serenity is less of a paradise and more of a prison. When Malik Bruder, his classmate, discovers that the major employer, a traffic-cone factory, is just a front for something more sinister, the two boys, along with friends Hector Amani and Tori Pritel, decide to investigate. They find that Serenity, which holds honesty and integrity above all else, is built on a lie. The truth is so shocking that it puts into question everything they know, even their identities. The mystery is unraveled through several alternating first-person narratives. The distinctive voices of a cynic, a true believer, a hopeful optimist, a terrified tag-along and others create depth, while break-ins, theft, vandalism and an explosive car chase keep the pages turning. A cliffhanger ending points to at least one sequel. A fresh premise, good pacing, surprising twists and engaging characters all combine to make this a series worth following. (Adventure. 8-12)

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Masterminds Series , #1
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.70(d)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Meet the Author

Gordon Korman has written more than seventy middle-grade and teen novels, including the New York Times bestselling THE 39 CLUES: CAHILLS VS. VESPERS BOOK ONE: THE MEDUSA PLOT; the Swindle series; UNGIFTED; the Island series, POP; SCHOOLED; NO MORE DEAD DOGS; SON OF THE MOB; and many other favorites. Gordon lives with his family on Long Island, New York. You can visit him online at

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Masterminds 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 14 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is amazing. The plot is so intense and the characters are almost real. This book has such an interesting way of capturing you from the beginning. It is a completely new take on books in general to rotate between characters the way Gordon Korman does here. I was actually really scared for Eli and Tori and even Malik. It was extremely well discribed in a way so you could see it happening in your head but barely took any time at all to describe. This is overall a great book and I cannot wait for the next adventure. Check out the Unwanteds series by Lisa McMann
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Masterminds is really exciting and thrilling page turner. I don't know how I would react to what these teens find out about themselves and their town. This is a must-read novel and really funny!! THIS BOOK IS AWESOME!!!!!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was amazing! And while the plot may seem a tad unoriginal at first glance, it is a very intriguing and suspenseful story. The mystery and suspense is really well handled, with the characters original and fun. I recommend this to everyone! I would say more for people who like The Giver type stories or sci-fi mystery. A wonderful read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Its an amazing book filled with mystery and excitment
Jacob_K 28 days ago
Hi! All in all, I would give Masterminds, by Gordon Korman a solid 75/100, or 4 stars. In my review, I'll address Plot, Characters, and the Conflicts of the book in depth. Section 1: Plot The plot was interesting, and at times, surprising. Overall, it kept you entertained. It was lighthearted but also addressed some serious topics. Some of these include dealing with a life long friend moving away and never being able to speak to them again, as well as dealing with the death of a friend. Honestly, the book felt a little bit too young for a YA title, and may have been better suited for a younger audience. Disregarding this, the book was still enjoyable. Without giving to much of the story away, prepare to laugh, gasp, and not cry, but be sad for the characters. Section 2: Characters The characters were one of the strongest components of the book. They felt very real, and everyone could relate to at least one of the kids in the book. At parts when the characters were going through strong emotions, you could really feel what they felt. And when something good happened to them, you felt genuinely happy for them, and when unfortunate events occurred, you felt the same amount of distress as the characters themselves. There was very rarely a moment when the characters felt unrealistic, or out of characters. Throughout the book the characters did change. One character, a young girl named Amber was commonly described as “Happy Valley's biggest fan” Yet, by the end of the book, after learning the truth of their small town, Amber was no longer happy with blindly believing what the adults in town told her, and she hated the place. At the beginning she happily listened to what any adult told her, but by the end, she learned that she would have to question authority if she wanted the truth. Section 3: Conflicts There were conflicts in the book, but it took a while for them to even be brought up. The book was very slow to start, and it takes a patient reader to reach the main conflict and action. The main conflict of the book was between the children of Serenity and the adults that run it. The children had been raised to love the town. This worked for 13 years but after the best friend of Eli, the main character, was forced to move out of town supposedly to his grandmother's ranch, things changed. Randy, Eli's best friend, left behind a secret note that stated that something fishy was happening around town. Only Eli took the note seriously, but after a thunderstorm that messed with the WiFi signals, and Eli found that their internet was being censored, his closer friends warmed up to the idea that all might not be well in Serenity. The conflict revolves around this, and has to do with Eli and his friends gathering proof of the town's crimes, their escape from town that ended in a near miss with death, and then their travel to find Randy in the outside world with which they had no experience. The conflict was interesting, and complex if nothing else. Section 4: Overall Review In conclusion, the book was okay. It wasn't the best I've ever read, nor was it the worst. The plot felt a bit to simple for the target audience, yet it was bearable. The characters were very realistic and relatable, and were the strongest suit of the book. The conflict was interesting and complex, but very slow to become a focus of the book, taking a patient reader to fully enjoy it. For all these reasons I give it 4 stars, and a 75/100 rating.
Anonymous 9 months ago
Super good book
Anonymous 9 months ago
Great book, can't wait for the next one!?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I absolutly loved this book! So many things hapened that i did NOT expect. Looking forwards to read "crinimal destiny" the sequal to this amazing and entrigiung book :)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I thought thiss book was amazing! It had detail and feelung it was just great! You can picture it in your head like what the book is saying. I definetly recommend it!!! Hope you buy it :) (P.S its SO worth 7.99$)
This_Kid_Reviews_Books More than 1 year ago
Synopsis- Eli Frieden liked his life at Serenity, New Mexico, a nice little town in the middle of nowhere. It was reported as the #1 Best Town To Live In in the world. But it isn’t until Eli’s best friend Randy suddenly leaves town with no explanation, only leaving a cryptic note, that Eli starts to suspect things. He soon finds out, with the help of other classmates, that Serenity isn’t a charted town. Everything in it is fake. Everything they’ve been told is a lie. Even who they are. As a science experiment over nurture-versus-nature, they took DNA from the world’s captured criminal masterminds, and cloned them. They would then raise the children in an environment devoid of evil to see if they would be nice, respectful citizens, instead of evil geniuses. Did I mention that the idea of cloning was made illegal internationally? It’s funny, that in sheltering people from the truth, when the wall breaks down, they turn into what you hoped they wouldn’t.* What I Thought- This is an interesting book. It’s very original. The concept is cool, but kind of creepy, too. I mean, kids being cloned from modern criminal masterminds to discover the answer to nurture vs. nature, is kind of awesome, but also disturbing. It really made me think about the whole story. Cloning is not something to be tampered with. The creepiness of the plot really sets the stage for the whole story. I couldn’t put this book down or get it out of my head. Mr. Korman has written a well-done story with great characters and a marvelous execution of a plan. Really looking forward to a second book! *NOTE* I got a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed the ideas that Mr. Korman had for the plot, but he executed it rather poorly. ~-~ Randy Hardaway and Eli Frieden are best friends. But, out of the blue, Randy is forced to move to his grandparents' place, which isn't in Serenity. Serenity is a small town in New Mexico with the basic utopian message: you're as equal as everyone else, despite your job, you all matter the same. So when Eli finds a note from Randy later, explaining a little more, he's determined to figure out what's truly going on in Serenity, even if Tori Pritel wants in. Hector Amani and Malik Bruder soon join. So they investigate. Finding the true wifi network leads them to learn Serenity doesn't knowingly exist. And then they sneak around the Plastics Works, the big factory that technically tricks all of the citizens, or at least the kids. After learning more, against all of the rules of Serenity, they sneak back. This time, onto the roof, away from the Purple People Eaters, the men in purple who are technically the guards. And then they find out who they are, and why Serenity isn't ln the maps. And... they find out how to escape. ~-~ I honestly did not enjoy this, though I have enjoyed Mr. Korman's works, On the Run and Kidnapped. I am not one to dislike many books, and who can argue when your school's book club gets you five books a year for free? But this is one of only three books that I thoroughly did not enjoy. But it may be different for you. This did not leave me as intrigued as I wished, and I was pretty offended, too, by the reviews on the back of the hardcover edition. Well, not the reviews, but the four reviewers. I mean, James Patterson, James Dashner, Brandon Mull, and Peter Lerangis
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
In my class, a few people were assigned to read this book, and they told me it was amazing.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Another now
Anonymous More than 1 year ago