Three twelve-year-olds hunt for treasure in a book that integrates virtual escape-the-room games into its mystery.
Recommended grade level: 5 and up
Pages: 320 (for ISBN 9781101931875)
Pace: moderate to fast
Summary: What if playing video games was prepping you to solve an incredible real-world puzzle and locate a priceless treasure?
Twelve-year-old Ted Gerson has spent most of his summer playing video games. So when his great-uncle dies and bequeaths him the all so-called treasure in his overstuffed junk shop of an apartment, Ted explores it like it’s another level to beat. And to his shock, he finds that eccentric Great-Uncle Ted actually has set the place up like a real-life escape-the-room game!
Using his specially honed skills, Ted sets off to win the greatest game he’s ever played, with help from his friends Caleb and Isabel. Together they discover that Uncle Ted’s “treasure” might be exactly that—real gold and jewels found by a Japanese American unit that served in World War II. With each puzzle Ted and his friends solve, they get closer to unraveling the mystery—but someone dangerous is hot on their heels, and he’s not about to let them get away with the fortune. (Source)
Who will like this book?: Analytical thinkers will love trying to piece together the clues before Ted does. Threads involving World War II history and the Japanese Interment should please adults and may also spark an interest in these topics in middle schoolers. This is a diverse title that avoids character cliches. The video game connection could be a good hook, but I don’t think whether or not the reader is a gamer will have much effect on whether they enjoy reading this.There’s enough adventure and suspense to keep most readers on board; this will appeal to a wide range of middle schoolers.
Who won’t like this book?: There isn’t too much depth, drama, or character development, so fans of those might want to look elsewhere.
Other comments: The cover and title made me expect this to be a book about video games, but they’re really only a structure mechanism. Ted does play escape-the-room games on the computer, but the action of the story happens in real life.
Readalikes: Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein, The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart, The Red Blazer Girls: The Ring of Rocamadour by Michael D. Beil, and Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliett are all middle grade series-starters that are heavy on puzzles and adventure. This genre isn’t as common in YA, but older readers may like I am Princess X by Cherie Priest. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline might also work, but it’s an adult title so make sure your reader’s reading level and maturity level match up with it. (I don’t remember anything especially mature in Ready Player One, but I could be wrong.)