Evil Genius, by Catherine Jinks

At the age of seven, Cadel Piggott is expelled from school and in trouble with the police for hacking into computer systems and creating chaos. His adoptive parents take him to see psychologist Thaddeus Roth, whose guidance they hope will help Cadel become a happy, well-adjusted boy.

As he grows up, Cadel’s life is monitored and overseen by Roth, who has input on very aspect of the boy’s life. But far from helping the boy become normal, Roth is steering him along another path – that of the evil genius. By the age of fourteen Cadel is at university studying for a degree in World Domination. It is only here, at the Axis Institute, that Cadel starts to question his upbringing and the motivations of those who guide him.

Evil Genius is a complex book which will appeal to older teens, or those of high reading ability, with a crossover appeal for adult readers. With 480 pages of small text, it is a lengthy but absorbing read, with twists and turns to keep the reader guessing right up until the end.

Jinks’ devotion to detail will appeal to readers with scientific or mathematical minds, who will enjoy the intricacies of the Axiom institute and the research and conundrums within its walls.

The premise of the book – an adopted child who doesn’t know his true heritage and lacks the protection of a family – is not new, with some similarities with the young heroes of the Lemony Snicket books and even Harry Potter, but this book is darker and aimed at a slightly older age group. Readers will be drawn into Cadel’s world and, once into it, will not want to put the book down.

Evil Genius, by Catherine Jinks
Allen & Unwin, 2005