Thank you NetGalley and Delacorte Books For Young Readers, for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
Release Date: July 19th, 2016
Synopsis: Twelve-year-old Ted Gerson has spent most of his summer playing video games. So when his great-uncle dies and bequeaths him all the 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 every 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.
Click Here To Start is a fun and exciting adventure from start to finish. First, I thought the concept of basing a story around the computer game Escape-the-Room, highly original. And if that isn’t enough, the author throws in WWII, the Monument Men, the Nisei Brigade (the Japanese-American unit that served during the War), and the internment of Japanese-Americans in this country. And making things even more appealing for history and literature lovers there’s the many references to classics such as Farewell to Manzanar and The Maltese Falcon. What I loved about this though, was how Denis Markell made his story educational, yet he does so in such an interesting way that kids won’t mind. The three main characters, twelve-year-old Ted, Caleb, and Isabel are written wonderfully. As an adult reader I found them to be engaging and hilarious, particularly Ted, the narrator. I thought Markell perfectly captured that tween voice: charm, snark, angst and all. I think kids reading this will complete relate to them. The only reason I’ve knocked off 1/2 a star is because there were a few scenes where a couple of the adults, mainly Ted’s dad, come across as rather dim-witted. This really isn’t enough to spoil the story though. The plot is engaging and filled with puzzles aplenty which will keep readers guessing right up to the exciting conclusion. This is the kind of book where kids will thrill to the mystery and suspense, and parents and teachers will be more than satisfied with the educational aspects which will lead to some great discussion, as well as the diversity of the characters, (Ted is half Asian and half Jewish). I have no qualms in recommending this for upper elementary and middle-school aged kids. I think it’s a great book to share in classrooms, book discussion groups, and with the family. As a former children’s librarian I will even go so far as to say that I hope Click To Start is nominated for this year’s Newbery Award. This is a literary award given annually here in the U.S. to the author of “the most distinguished contribution to American literature for young children.” Yes it is that good! While it may be a standalone, the ending hints that there may be more adventures out there for this intrepid trio. Personally, I’m keeping my fingers crossed that there are, because I’m certainly interested in whatever else may be in store for them.