Rating: High Four 1/2
Who I'd Recommend to: Fans of Chasing Vermeer, the Doldrums, Wildwood (similar feel), and Masterpiece.
Synopsis (from Amazon):
For twelve-year-old Emily, the best thing about moving to San Francisco is that it's the home city of her literary idol: Garrison Griswold, book publisher and creator of the online sensation Book Scavenger (a game where books are hidden in cities all over the country and clues to find them are revealed through puzzles). Upon her arrival, however, Emily learns that Griswold has been attacked and is now in a coma, and no one knows anything about the epic new game he had been poised to launch. Then Emily and her new friend James discover an odd book, which they come to believe is from Griswold himself, and might contain the only copy of his mysterious new game.
Racing against time, Emily and James rush from clue to clue, desperate to figure out the secret at the heart of Griswold's new game—before those who attacked Griswold come after them too.
Emily, the protagonist, has a very interesting family, one that is challenging to relate to in the sense that they have a goal to live in every one of the US states. Emily struggles with being unable to make concrete friendships and memories, so she’s reluctant and even a little surprised when in walks James, the kid who lives upstairs with the crazy cowlick named Steve and a rusty pail he sends secret messages to her in. Emily and James become fast friends, and I enjoyed watching their friendship evolve over time. Emily also has an obsession with the inventive game Book Scavenger, which comes into play quite a bit throughout the story. The writing flowed nicely and had a fast pace to it, keeping me in suspense even though it took quite a while for the story to reach the “Rising Action” (by which I mean there was a little more build-up than necessary). The mystery itself was very creative, too, and I loved following along and trying to crack all the ciphers with Emily and James. My one issue, on that note, is that the action and conflict felt a little fake. In the end, the real enemy is not much of an enemy at all, and the stakes aren’t nearly as high as the synopsis implies.
One last thing I really loved, though, was the charm of the setting. My family and I visit San Francisco often, so I actually recognized most of the places Emily and James went to, and could easily picture them in my mind. San Francisco is an amazing place to locate a story, because there’s a lot of charm and history/culture mixed in with a major city. San Francisco was, in fact, what I believe made this book feel so special.
Overall, a really fun, enjoyable, suspenseful mystery that I’d read all over again in a heartbeat.