The Misfits #1: A Royal Conundrum by Lisa Yee

Newbery award-winning author Lisa Yee’s new novel, The Misfits, is a zany and hilarious heist story about a group of middle-grade crime busters. The story centres on 12-year-old Olive Cabin Zang, desperate to find her place in the world. When her busy parents send her to a former prison, now a mysterious boarding school, she wonders what she has done to deserve this punishment. Turns out the new school is a reforming arts school called RASCH (not rash) and they are training elite kids to battle crime. At her former school, Olive never felt special, and in her first days at RASCH, she felt even more useless and unwanted. But her friendships grow with the other misfits, those with unique talents like hers, and she realizes she has something to offer. Like any good heist story, the protagonists need a mission, so the ragtag group of kids are called upon to solve the mystery of a string of jewel thefts by the Bling King. The stakes are ramped up when the school’s benefactor must rely on the Misfits to ensure her priceless jewels are not stolen at an event to raise funds for the school.  

Family dynamics are often an element in stories for this age group. Olive wonders why her parents have transferred her to a school where her life could be at risk. She misses her grandmother, but no one will talk about her disappearance. Middle schoolers are just beginning to figure out how to express their emotions, and Olive’s emotional predicament balances well with the fast pace and humour of the story.

Middle school is a time when many kids feel invisible, yet still hope they have something that makes them special and stand out from the crowd. The characters in The Misfits are each distinct without falling into the trope, uh, trap of being a stereotype, which young readers will appreciate. Lee pulls this off because she’s a very funny writer and has a keen ear for the cadence and speech patterns of your typical pre-teen. She also knows what a reader wants in a heist story: lots of action, cool gadgets, and high stakes. In the end, these self-described Misfits end up proving how special they really are.

Caldecott Medal–winning illustrator Dan Santat’s distinctive black and white pencil illustrations perfectly capture the humour and energy of the story.

Lisa Yee has written a fun and twisty heist story about a quirky band of middle-school operatives that entertains but also delivers a potent message about acceptance. Can’t wait for Book 2!

Lisa Yee has taken a private investigator course, and it’s slightly possible that she’s a secret undercover operative. She’s also a Newbery Honoree and a National Book Award finalist for Maizy Chen’s Last Chance. Some of her other twenty-one novels are the groundbreaking Millicent Min, Girl Genius; Stanford Wong Flunks Big-Time; and the DC Super Hero Girls series. A frequent contributor to NPR’s Books We Love, she divides her time between Western Massachusetts and Los Angeles.

Dan Santat is a #1 New York Times bestselling author and illustrator of over a hundred books. His picture book The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend received the Caldecott Medal. He also illustrated The Blur, Lift, and Drawn Together, both written by Minh Lê, which received critical acclaim. Dan is also the creator of the Disney animated hit The Replacements. He lives in Southern California with his family. Learn more at or visit him on Instagram and Twitter @dsantat.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Random House Books for Young Readers (Jan. 2 2024)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 288 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1984830295
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1984830296

Andy Tolson has been a boy magician, propmaker, filmmaker and writer. At the National Post and Maclean's Magazine, he was a photojournalist and editor. His first novel, Noisemaker, was published in 2022 by Moose House Publications. His debut middle-grade novel, How To Kidnap A Mermaid, will be published by Nimbus Publishing, fall 2024. He lives in Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia. Andy will be focusing on reviewing middle-grade novels for TMR.