Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Review of "The Odd Job Squad" and Interview with Author Karl Fields

Make sure to check out all the stops on this tour. One commenter from each stop will win a box of "Pinks," which are pink fortune cookies that Ander, the main character has a fondness for. One $25 Amazon gift card given to one random commenter at the end of the tour. 


Thirteen-year-old Ander Cartwright is an expert on two subjects: fortune cookies and payback. Especially payback.

When he’s not struggling with algebra, Ander is the leader of an anonymous revenge club that operates within the walls of Marina Middle School. Got a beef with a classmate? Shoot Ander’s crew an email and, if your case if legit, they’ll deliver some retribution on your behalf.

It’s not easy to right wrongs and stay under the radar at the same time. That’s why Ander developed three simple rules designed to keep him and his friends from blowing their cover.

But when Ander spots the opportunity to settle an old score of his own, he ignores his own rules, setting off a chain of events that threatens to blow his cover, and it’ll take all the butt-kicking, detention- dodging skill he can muster to keep a lid on his secret.


That afternoon, the four of us sat around the computer in our “office” – the guesthouse Christian’s mom let us use (she thought we were just playing video games) – to decide if we should take the job. It was good having us all together again. Sure, we hung out during the summer, but it seemed like somebody was always on vacation, had cousins visiting from out of town or, in Shooter’s case, at basketball camp.

Christian pointed to Alan’s email, still up on the screen. “Come on, obviously we take this one. I mean, Greg Bilski’s a tool.”

Joe wagged a finger at him. “Uh, uh, uhhh, amigo. I think somebody forgot the rules over the summer. ‘Not personal’ and all that.”

Joe and Christian. Not exactly peas in a pod. Joe was tall and lanky, with this spiky black hair that never moved. Almost everything he wore was black, including the polish on his thumbnails. It seemed like he never got worked up over anything. On the other hand, Christian’s look was mostly skate shop, with a little Gap thrown in. He had a head full of kinky brown hair that Joe called a bowl of lettuce and glasses that refused to stay up on his nose. Plus, he’d been on the small side ever since second grade, so he knew how it felt to get pushed around.

“I think we ought to hack into the school database and change all his grades from last year to F’s,” Christian said. “Let’s see how he likes going back to sixth grade.”


Tell us about The Odd Job Squad.

It’s set in a San Francisco middle school, where a group of friends operate an anonymous revenge club.The way the club works is, if a fellow student has been wronged (bullied, been the victim of rumors, had their homework stolen, etc.), he or she emails the Odd Job Squad, who seeks to even the score on the victim’s behalf. For instance, when an eighth grader, who happens to be a huge San Francisco 49er fan, bullies a sixth grader, the Odd Job Squad kidnaps his 49er jersey and takes pictures of people pretending to blow their noses on it. The bully gets the message and doesn’t bother anyone else. But things get interesting for the team when someone at school discovers their identity and threatens to make trouble for them if…certain conditions aren’t met.

What made you decide to write for tweens?

There’s something about that age range – when you’re not little kid anymore, but you’re not quite a young adult either – that has so many possibilities for a novel. In short, up to this point, your life has been all about you, but now we start to become more aware of the world outside of ourselves and then seek to fit into it. That last part really provides fertile ground for a writer.

Who do you look to for inspiration as a writer?

I wouldn’t say I look to a specific person, but for me, inspiration is everywhere. The Odd Job Squad, was inspired by a newspaper article about bullying. I got the idea for Instant Preplay, my other novel for tweens, while watching a reality show. I also have a novel for adults that was inspired one day when I walked by a poster advertising a play. So, at least for me, inspiration comes from all sorts of places. I think the key is to keep an open mind because you never know when an idea will go upside your head.

Which book of yours do you love the most? Why?

Of mine? That’s tough, but I’d have to say The Odd Job Squad. For one, it’s my first book and there’s always something about that “first love.” Another reason I like that book is because of the reaction it gets. Typically, as soon as I say the words “anonymous revenge club,” people are like, “Really? That sounds cool.”

Music when you write or no? If so, was there a particular song that you listened to while writing
The Odd Job Squad?

For the most part, no, which is interesting because I listen to music when I’m doing almost anything else. When I’m writing, music tends to fade into the background and I end up paying almost no attention. That said, there are songs I associate with certain scenes in the book. For instance, there’s a scene that takes place in a fancy hotel and the main character, Ander, hears a Muzak version of a Green Day song coming from the speaker system, so that scene always reminds me of “American Idiot.”

What advice would you give to my middle-school readers who want to become professional

The first thing most people will tell you is that to become a writer you have to first be a reader, but I’m guessing most people following your blog already fit that category, so let’s skip past that one. The one thing I’d say to anyone who wants to write is this: be honest. You have to write the story that’s within you to write. Even though they’re very popular, I don’t write zombie or werewolf stories, because that’s just not me and it probably be painfully obvious. So, write with honesty and never try to put one past your readers.

Anything else? (links, comments, etc)

Just that I think this blog does a great job with all of the various how-to articles in addition to the reviews and interviewing people like me. Keep up the great work and thanks so much for the time!

My Review

This was a pretty fun story. It was fast-paced, and the plot was tight.

I work with students the age of Anders and his friends, and I know how hard it can be to write kids this age realistically. So often, adult authors resort to stereotyping or trying to sort of recreate themselves as teens in their books. I didn't get that impression here. The narrator, Anders, was engaging, funny, and most everything he did -- his reactions, his vocabulary -- seemed age appropriate without feeling as if he came right out of a Disney Channel sitcom. I enjoyed his quirks, his ups and downs, and his determination.

Being originally from California, and having written stories set in San Francisco myself, I am partial to that city. There were enough touchstones to make it familiar without overburdening with details or making it feel as if the city is the main character, which can happen sometimes in stories set in such iconic places.

I would recommend this read to my students, and look forward to the author's other works.

About the Author

Karl Fields is a writer of fiction for teens and young adults. His other interests include jazz, golf
and collecting flash drives, the more unusual the better. He was an army brat and by the seventh grade, he had attended six different schools on three continents. His first book, The Odd Job Squad, is about the exploits of three eighth graders who operate an anonymous revenge club at

their school. He recommends that you not attempt the stunts portrayed in this book. His second, Instant Preplay, is about a boy who discovers that his DVR records shows before they air. He recommends that you get one of those if you can.

Amazon http://www.amazon.com/The-Odd-Job-Squad-ebook/dp/B00560R9BC
BN http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-odd-job-squad-karl-fields/1103800835?ean=9781463537890
Kobo http://www.kobobooks.com/ebook/The-Odd-Job-Squad/book-qHs3VJyBxEmMs0UaGNlx8g/page1.html?s=uUC_07B_Hk-5_N1qzhxLUA&r=1


  1. CB,

    Thanks for hosting this leg of the tour! I'll be stopping in throughout the day, so if anyone has any questions, fire away!

  2. Hi Karl! Thanks for writing a book for tweens! Like you said there's a whole lot of gold to work with in that age group and I think they, like the "new adults" sometimes don't have enough stories to choose from. So...if you had to hire Ander and the Odd Job Squad, what would it be for??

    andralynn7 AT gmail DOT com

    1. Ooh, that's a great question, Andra! Seriously, I've never been asked that one before.

      When I was in seventh grade, someone made off with a little portable CD player I had. I never found out who it was, but if I could, I would have the Odd Job Squad take a bunch of random keys, put them on keychains labeled "Reward if found" along with the thief's phone number, and scatter the keychains around town. Then the person who stole my CD player would get a flood of calls from people wanting their reward money. Um, not that I'm still bitter or anything. :-)

  3. What a fun concept, you have to wonder though how do you prove that the wrong actually occurred. What if they hired the revenge squad to "avenge" something that didn't actually happen.

    fencingromein at hotmail dot com

    1. Shannon,

      That very thing is addressed early on. Not to go giving the story away, but the kids have a system in place to help prevent what you mention.

  4. Great review, thank you.


  5. Enjoyed reading your informative interview.

    Some authors will do a detailed map and/or description of the area, or world, they are writing about. Some authors place this information as maps in their books or on their websites. Do you get that detailed when developing a fictional location (city, state, country, world) for your books?

    kareninnc at gmail dot com

    1. To this point, that's not something I've done. It may have to do with the fact that all four books I've written are based in actual places, rather than a world I've imagined. In the Odd Job Squad, I use a combination of real San Francisco landmarks and places I made up. The Coit Tower, the Gateway Arch in Chinatown and the Cable Car Museum all exist, but the Hotel Capri, where one of the book's pivotal scenes takes place, does not.

  6. That is an inspired prank...to hack in and change someone's grades all to F. That is definitely a fun, age-appropriate prank. It made me smile to think of it.
    catherinelee100 at gmail dot com

  7. Very nice interview

    bn100candg at hotmail dot com

  8. I'm glad you found this to be a fun story. I was worried it might be a tad dark.