Karmack by J.C. Whyte

By Ekta R. Garg

August 21, 2013

Rated: Borrow it

When a fifth grader takes an unusual amount of pride in bullying his classmates, he gets a lesson in karma.  An unusual creature gives the boy the daunting news: change your ways, or suffer the boomerang effect of all the bad things he’s done to others.  New author J.C. Whyte offers middle grade readers this premise in the entertaining but slightly flat book, Karmack.

Curtis “Sully” Sullenburg considers himself the Big Cheese at his elementary school.  All of the other fifth graders know not to cross Sully, and he takes advantage of his edge over them.  He doesn’t hesitate to prank and bully classmates and younger students who come in his way, and he doesn’t spare the teachers either.  He hopes to build enough of a reputation to carry him through middle school the following year.

One day as Sully and his two sidekicks track down their latest victim, Sully spots something completely out of the ordinary: a small gnome-like creature.  Just as Sully and his friends try to teach their opponent a lesson, the creature makes something unpleasant happen to one of Sully’s friends.  Despite the creature’s speed, Sully eventually catches him and pries information from him.  The creature exists to balance all the bad things Sully and his friends have done; Sully, in particular, has racked up so many bad deeds that he needs to keep an eye out for something bad to happen to him.  Suddenly Sully becomes torn: should he continue building his reputation as a tough guy, or should he try to bring his own fate back into balance?

Author Whyte introduces in an easy-to-understand manner the whole idea of karma, that “what goes around comes around.”  Middle grade readers will certainly recognize from their own classes the bully figure characterized by Sully, and Whyte provides a reasonable justification for his motivation. Sully’s transformation also comes at a realistic pace, and Whyte’s utilizes well the use of an outside source providing the catalyst for change.

In speech and general impression, however, Sully sounds and almost acts older than a fifth grader.  His character seems better suited for a seventh-grade class.  Also, while Sully’s teachers represent the adults in the book, his parents don’t enter the story at all.  Given the nature of many of Sully’s pranks and his general behavior, adults reading this book may wonder why Whyte didn’t provide Sully with an additional foil in the form of his parents.  And Whyte misses a key opportunity to connect with her readers with regards to technology; today’s elementary students interact daily with tablets, computer games, and mP3 players, and Whyte doesn’t mention of these items in the book.

For the most part, however, middle grade readers may find Karmack a pleasant read.  I recommend it for its targeted age group, particularly for those students who may not like reading as much and need an easy book to fulfill any reading requirements.


What the ratings mean:

Bookmark it!–Read this book and then buy it and add it to to your own collection.  It’s definitely worth it!

Borrow it–Check this one out from the library; it’s a worthy read, but think twice before spending your hard-earned money on it.

Bypass it–Free time is precious.  Don’t spend it on this book!

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