The Big Splash by Jack D. Ferraiolo


Cover of The Big Splash

Captain’s Log:

Module 9

Port of Call:  Ferraiolo, J.D. (2008). The big splash. New York, NY: Amulet Books.

First Lines:

Summary: Matt Stevens is a Jr. High private investigator. Back in Ellie (elementary school) he was good friends with now-turned organized crime boss Vinnie Biggs, and Kevin Carling, his former best friend who is now Vinnie’s right hand man. Vinnie has come up with an ingenious way of getting rid of bullies and those who stand in the way of his organization. His goons and assassins ‘take out’ his targets through the judicious use of squirt guns, cat-pee water balloons and, the ultimate weapon, a diaper smeared with chocolate. From that point, the taunting of the student body alone is enough to ruin Vinnie’s victims’ social lives and send them permanently to the ‘Outs’ to live out their remaining school years as social pariahs. Matt refuses to get involved with Vinnie, his moral standards forcing him to stay away from his former friends, but when Vinnie’s best former trigger-girl, Nikki Fingers, is taken ‘out’ by a mystery assassin, Matt gets coerced into taking the case. Written in noir style, The Big Splash is a new take on highschool drama and mystery, with a fair amount of humor thrown in for good measure.

First Impressions: Although I love noir, I wasn’t feeling this book at first. However, after a chapter or two I got into it. I liked when Matt’s relationship with his mother was explored, and that made me take more of an interest in the story. Also, this book feels like the first in a series, and there are certainly bigger questions that deserve to be answered in consecutive books.

Suggestions for use: A great introduction to the noir style, I would use this book to get kids interested in mysteries, or as a recommendation if they want a mystery more closely derived from real life situations. This is an entertaining book, so any middle-schooler looking for a good read would probably enjoy this story. Perhaps this could be a step up from the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series.


Publishers Weekly:

“/* Starred Review */ The seventh-grader version of a Raymond Chandler PI, Matt Stevens coolly navigates the mean streets (okay, the mean hallways) of Franklin Middle School in a first novel with an ingenious premise: junior high noir. Matt’s classmate, the once-bullied Vinny Biggio, commands a whole “organization,” complete with hit men, in this case boys and girls who use loaded squirt guns, stealth attacks and their peers’ predictable responses (choruses of “Jimmy peed his pants!”) to ensure their targets’ permanent and total ostracism. The plot has to do with the spectacular takedown of one Nicole Finnegan, aka Nikki Fingers, the school’s most feared “trigger-girl,” that is, until her recent retirement from Vinny’s operation. Just who ordered the hit on Nikki, and why? Twists and curve balls keep readers guessing; extended jokes like one about a petty thief’s desperate need for cash (“On the surface, Peter was a happy-go-lucky model student, but underneath, he had a dirty little secret: He was a Pixy Stixer”) will keep them laughing. With crisp prose and surprisingly poignant moments, Ferraiolo’s debut entertains on many levels. Ages 10–14.”

Staff. (2008). The big splash. Publishers Weekly, 255(37), 67.

School Library Journal:

 “Gr 6–8— Matt Stevens is a seventh-grade Sam Spade who attends a middle school with an organized crime ring run by Vinny Biggs and his goons. Biggs traffics in forgeries, stolen exams, and candy, and has his competition regularly put in the “Outs” with humiliating water-pistol stains to the pants. A kid in the Outs is outcast for life—so when Nikki Fingers, Biggs’s most-feared former hit woman, is taken down by an unseen assailant, Matt is hired by both her sister, Jenny, and Biggs himself to find the culprit. The result is a punchy, clue- and twist-filled plot that falls somewhere between Bruce Hale’s “Chet Gecko” (Harcourt) and Robert Cormier’s The Chocolate War (Knopf, 1974). Ferraiolo cleverly adapts hard-boiled whodunit roles to a slightly cartoonish middle school arena (Joey “the Hyena” is framed for the crime; Katie Kondo is the vigilant hall monitor chief; Jimmy Mac heads the school paper; Sal Becker runs a root-beer version of a dive bar in his toolshed). Matt’s strained relationship with Kevin, a former best friend who’s now working for Biggs, brings depth to his character, as do his crushes on both Jenny and Kevin’s sister. An intriguing personal mystery involving Matt’s father, who disappeared years earlier, remains unsolved by the end of the book, and Matt’s mother has secrets yet to tell. Well paced, funny, and suspenseful, with some real commentary on bullying and mob mentality, this book will have fans eagerly awaiting the next installment in this faux noir detective series.”

Pollard, R. (2008). The big splash. School Library Journal, 54(11), 120.

Published in: on October 25, 2010 at 10:21 am  Comments (1)  
Tags: , , , , , , ,