Long gone are my Nancy Drew and Boxcar Children days, but I still think there’s something wonderful about a good mystery–especially one that feels solveable.
No, I did not predict the ending of Jennifer Chambliss Bertman’s charming puzzle, but I did predict a few other things. Like, I did know going in that the good guys would somehow beat the bad guys That was inevitable as the two large, brutish thugs that Bertman introduces us to in the first chapter are inept, at best, and not quite certain how to follow the orders they’ve been given.
Book Scavenger is a game (more of an obsession, really) for our heroine Emily who enjoys the thrill of hunting down a hidden book as well as solving and creating interesting puzzles and ciphers. Her parents, bloggers famous for their desire to live in every state in the U.S, have just moved the family to San Francisco. The only good thing about the move, in Emily’s opinion, is the fact that San Francisco is the home of Bayside Press, Book Scavenger, and the book’s creator Garrison Griswold.
Unfortunately, someone has shot poor Mr. Griswold on his way to announce his brand new game. No one knows if Mr. Griswold is going to make it; nor does anyone know what his new game is or if Book Scavenger has a future if he doesn’t make it. When Emily, her brother Matthew, and newfound friend/upstairs neighbor James (Emily is a little new at this whole “making friends” thing) discover a brand new copy of Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Gold Bug” hidden behind a trash can in the BART station (the exact same one where Mr. Griswold was shot). After careful examination, Emily just knows that the book must have belonged to Mr. Griswold and that it must be part of his next game.
What follows is an adventure full of word puzzles, literary puzzles, and hidden books. I listened to it as an audiobook, and it was one of those easy listens where I was a little sad to have to stop the car. I flipped through the physical book later to discover that all I was actually missing were pictures of the ciphers themselves. Interesting, but they didn’t make me regret listening instead of reading.
This sounds a little goofy, but in the book, James has a cowlick sticking out of his hair that is so impressive that he names it. It takes on a personality of it’s own–it will wiggle happily or droop in sadness. The Steve of my imagination is much larger than the one in the cover art. Thus the quickly drawn picture in honor of Steve.
Lastly, and this does make me feel like I’m getting old, but sometimes when I read elementary/YA titles as an adult I experience what I’ll call “Where are your parents???” syndrome. In this case, I knew exactly where their parents were, but was somewhat perplexed by the fact that no matter what happened, neither James, Emily, nor Matthew thought to call the police or tell an adult that they were being chased by grown men. I realize that they’re kids and that they’re supposed to make a stupid decision for the sake of the plot, but this bugged me to no end and I even went so far as to make sure that my student (who also read the book) knows to call the police in this situation.
And while I don’t want to knock off ratings for something so small, it really did bug me to no end, and yes it was a little harder for me to enjoy the book after that.
If you’d like a star rating, I’ll give it 4 out of 5. I believe the second in the series will be coming out next year, and I’ll probably pick that up as well–I really did like it.
Lastly, Stephanie, Katie and I have started a new Youtube channel! We’re AtlantaGeekGirls (all one word), and I’m posting up a video review of the Dorothy Must Die series simultaneously along with this written review. Please go take a look here and tell me what you think! We’re still in the stages of figuring out what we’re doing, so constructive criticism really does help!