Greeting from Witness Protection! by Jake Burt
Date Published: October 3rd, 2017
Nicki Demere is an orphan and a pickpocket. She also happens to be the U.S. Marshals’ best bet to keep a family alive. . . .
The marshals are looking for the perfect girl to join a mother, father, and son on the run from the nation’s most notorious criminals. After all, the bad guys are searching for a family with one kid, not two, and adding a streetwise girl who knows a little something about hiding things may be just what the marshals need.
Nicki swears she can keep the Trevor family safe, but to do so she’ll have to dodge hitmen, cyberbullies, and the specter of standardized testing, all while maintaining her marshal-mandated B-minus average. As she barely balances the responsibilities of her new identity, Nicki learns that the biggest threats to her family’s security might not lurk on the road from New York to North Carolina, but rather in her own past.
Jake Burt was born in Columbus, Ohio, but he’s lived all over, in places called Cincinnati, Knightdale, Durham, and Hamden, and in countries like The United Kingdom and China. There hasn’t really been a time that Jake wasn’t in school – he did the whole preschool thing, then elementary, then middle, then high, then college, then sixth grade teacher, then English teacher in Jinan, then fourth grade teacher, then grad student, then fifth grade teacher. That’s probably why so many of his stories are set in schools, and why they feature kids.
And yeah, he teaches other stuff, too, like math and social studies and ecology, but writing is his favorite subject. In fact, if you thought of Jake as a one-dimensional guy who ate, breathed, and dreamed stories, he’d be fine with that.
This book took me by surprise. I honestly thought it would be a really cheesy middle grade book, and it is far from that.
Nicki Demere suffers from kleptomania and a long list of disappointments. She’s been in and out of foster homes ever since her thieving grandmother died and father stayed imprisoned. It isn’t until the U.S. Marshals come to pick her up and take her into another world entirely, one where she can leave her old life behind and forge a new identity as Charlotte Trevor that she starts to find herself amidst a loving family. The family isn’t perfect, but neither is she.
Here I learned the difference between foster care and being abused by the system; here I learned that Witness Protection is not just about hiding, it’s about feeling safe in the process. Jake Burt did an incredible job at rounding out the character of Nicki Demere and her separation from Charlotte Trevor. Her closest friend, Brit, was a unique character and he even wrote her gaming status as normal – in a way – and differs himself from other authors who focus on gamers as these reclusive people incapable of human interaction or holding a conversation.
Something else I found interesting (and great) about this book is that he romanticized NOTHING. The thing about writing a disorder (or disease or mental illness, whatever it is) is that you have to make sure you aren’t saying it’s fun or easy to have them. Burt went all in and delivered a flawless character – mind you, full of flaws – with a problem that isn’t talked about much these days. Which is a lot to say when we live in a moment in time where others don’t take mental illnesses seriously.
Also, he wrote all of this in the point of view of A THIRTEEN YEAR OLD GIRL.
Plus, he managed to weave in an extensive Italian crime syndicate into the story. None of the whole… “Oh, we’re in Witness Protection because we feel unsafe in our day to day lives. It’s just how we are”. No, they actually had a reason to hide. There are no actual ‘crime fighting’ scenes but Elena – or rather, Harriet – is mentioned as a hero because it was her decision to expose her criminal family that got them into the Witness Protection Program.
The interviews and court readings are well written as well and add a little mystery to this otherwise easy read. Which, by the way, I couldn’t put down until I was finished because it was that good.
Each character is memorable and I was left wanting more! There is a plot twist in the ending that rounded out any questions you might have had (I know I did) and it was just honestly one of those books you’ll come back to in a couple years wanting a movie, or something, on it.
I would definitely read this again if I was ever craving a book about family, forgiveness, and friendship. I trust this book with my youngest family members as much as I trust it with my oldest.
Scale – 1 = none, 2 = once or twice, 3 = neutral amount, 4 = at least once a chapter, 5 = an excessive amount
1 2 3 4 5
Age Range Recommendation:
Any age! It’s funny enough for kids and serious enough for adults to enjoy.
Crude or Profane language:
Once, but it was said by her dad and you don’t realize it was said until you go back and see it due to the scene it is placed in.
Drug or Alcohol Content:
1 2 3 4 5
Acceptable for a Christian Reader?
Yes. You’ll learn about the Witness Protection Program in the point of view of a thirteen year old girl and her struggles to fit into her new family.
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