Sweet on Books's Reviews > Riley Mack and the Other Known Troublemakers

Riley Mack and the Other Known Troublemakers by Chris Grabenstein
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's review
Sep 20, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: independent-reader-jr, melissa-g
Read in September, 2012

Who wouldn’t want to hang out with Riley Mack? He’s a good friend, he likes to have fun, and he’s a bit of a prankster. He’s also a quick thinker who can figure his way out of just about any sticky situation. Even better, he’s humble, looks out for others and is always ready to step in when he sees someone being bullied. In this action-packed adventure, Riley may be in 7th grade, but he faces enemies of all ages. He uses his wits to go up against a high school bully, a nasty police chief, small-town bank robbers, his mom’s creepy boss, and a grandma with a mean streak.

Riley leads his “Gnat Pack” crew, Mongo, Jake, Briana, and “newbie” Jamal, on one caper after the other. First they rescue Jamal from Gavin, the police chief’s son, who also happens to be the biggest bully in town. After that, the missions get more complicated. Adult characters play a significant role in the story, and Riley and his friends get involved in some very big, real-world problems. They rescue Mongo’s stolen Goldendoodle, free more than 50 dogs from grandma’s puppy mill, bust up a bank robbery, and save Riley’s mom from being framed for embezzlement.

Riley is a strong character who says, “Bullies are cowards. They just need to be reminded of that fact from time to time.” Other good advice comes from his dad, who tells him to “protect your country, protect your family, protect your friends, and defend those who cannot defend themselves. And while you’re doing it, try to enjoy the ride.” Riley takes this responsibility very seriously. Like I said, who wouldn’t want to be friends with this kid?

Riley Mack and the Other Known Troublemakers is very current, with references to texting and pop culture, but still manages to feel somewhat timeless with underlying themes of friendship, small-town adventures and standing up for what’s right. With its fast-paced dialogue, techy lingo and entertaining characters, the story moves along quickly. Each chapter focuses on a different scene, making it comfortable for readers to enjoy a chapter or two at a time. Just make sure your reader is ready to follow several different storylines (although they all converge in the end) and is able to keep track of characters that are introduced and then not heard from again for several chapters. The cover image may give a younger impression, but Riley Mack should appeal to older readers as well.
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