Eli lives in a perfect town: Serenity, New Mexico. Every house has a swimming pool, every kid has a tree house, and there’s no such thing as crime.

Eli has never been out of Serenity before—there’s really no reason to leave—but one day he and a friend go for a bike ride that takes them beyond the town limits. Eli looks back and sees the sign “Welcome to Serenity” behind him. All of a sudden, he feels sick to his stomach and gets a blinding headache. He tries to keep up with his friend, but he can’t. He topples from his bike, afraid he’s dying.

The next moment, a large military-type helicopter thunders in and lands near him. Inside the helicopter is Eli’s dad—and a half-dozen security guys. They load him into the helicopter and inject him with a sedative that knocks him out. That’s the last thing he remembers from that very strange day.

When Eli begins to recover from the incident, he realizes that his dad, the doctor, and maybe even every single adult in town are hiding something—something big. Eli and his friends set out to discover what is going on. Little do they know that they’ll uncover evidence linking their idyllic town to the greatest criminal masterminds in the country.


Genre: science fiction, thriller

Grades 4-6.


J’s take on it:

I used this title to start out my booktalk presentations for fifth and some sixth grade classes in Fall 2015. In good Korman style, the story is fast-paced and suspenseful, and it was a great book to get the students (and teachers) hooked into my talk. I would usually hear whispers of “I want to read that one!” from the audience, and several teachers thought they might use it as a read-aloud in class.

At the end of one session, when I was passing out the list of titles I had booktalked that day, a student shook his head, indicating that he didn’t need a copy. He held up his arm to show me that he had written “MASTERMINDS” from elbow to wrist with orange marker. He wasn’t about to let himself forget.

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