Book Review: Janitors – Secrets of New Forest Academy, by Tyler Whitesides

I’ve probably posted more about Tyler Whitesides and his books than any other writer, partly because he’s one I’ve actually met, had extended conversations with, and is a genuinely nice guy. But his books are good, too. He’s just released his second book, Janitors: Secrets of New Forest Academy. The kids and I finished it this weekend.

I liked the first book quite a bit, and he’s only gotten better. Spencer, Daisy and the cast from “Janitors” are back. The BEM is after Spencer for a secret they believe he holds, and will stop at nothing to get it. In order to keep him safe Warlock Walter Jamison sends Spencer, Daisy, and Dez (unfortunately) to New Forest Academy for a week while they sort things out. Unfortunately Spencer quickly finds he’s escaped the frying pan only to wind up in the fire.

Whitesides’ rapid pacing is still his hallmark, keeping the story moving along briskly from beginning to end. It’s a significantly longer book, too. But the plot is stronger this time around. Where Janitors set the foundation, Secrets of New Forest Academy starts to build a more elaborate structure than I was expecting. Some of the lighter, more slapstick tone of the first book are gone, and while the book doesn’t turn dark or anything, things get more serious.

There are also more fun “glopified” cleaning supplies, too, which Whitesides employs to great effect. There are no real stunning revelations this time around, but it’s not necessary, either. Instead there is just a steady building and deepening of the plot. And while the ending is not exactly a cliff-hanger, the stage is set for the next book to come out swinging.

My kids loved it. One immediately dug out the first book to re-read it. I enjoyed it, too. It’s well-written and doesn’t insult your intelligence. While very little surprised me, that in itself is a recommendation. Too many writers take short-cuts and try to conceal things from the reader. Whitesides puts it all out there. Sometimes I saw things coming a long way off, sometimes only a moment ahead of the reveal. Neither made the book any less fun.

On the contrary. Whitesides is confident the story stands on its own merits without having to shock and surprise the reader. He’s got so many “Chekov’s Guns” on the wall that it’s just plain delightful to see so many of them get fired. Nor does he try to make any of the reveals out to be bigger than they are.

If you’ve read the first Janitors I recommend this one highly. If you haven’t I’m almost tempted to tell you to wait until the next one comes out, or is close to coming out, before getting the first two and reading them. Otherwise you’re like us–forced to wait for another year for the next book to come out.

Whitesides doesn’t know it yet, but we’re about to make the next year difficult for him: “So, when’s that next book coming? What?! Delayed?! Then get back to work! No lollygagging around visiting family, get writing! We’re dyin’ here!”


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