Click Here to Start=YA at its best

Yes, I’ve been lazy. I haven’t been lazy watching or reading mysteries, just writing about them. No excuses, just haven’t been doing it. But, I’ve decided to get some posting done so here is my first review in a long while. I’ve been reading a number of Young Adult novels that I got at NCTE in the fall, and thought I’d share my thoughts. Denis Markell‘s Click Here to Start officially went on sale this week and my love of books involving gaming and mysteries made this a perfect book to review to get back into the blogging game. So, without further ado…

imgres.jpgTwelve-year-old Ted Gerson is an expert at locked-room escape video games. Life is fine, playing games with his best friend, Caleb, until Ted’s great-uncle, a Japanese-American who fought during World War II as part of the Nisei brigade dies and leaves Ted the contents of his apartment that have been set up as an escape-room game. Hints have been placed throughout the room (and the city) to lead Ted to a mysterious reward. Ted enlists Caleb and they unwillingly team with nerdy Isabel, who they have just met, to help unravel the mystery left for him. As they work through the clues, they learn they are not the only ones who are after whatever treasure lies at the end of the mystery.

Denis Markell’s debut novel, told from Ted’s point of view, is entertaining and suspenseful. Merkell has not only created well-developed characters, he’s constructed a plot-driven novel with the twists and turns involved in solving a locked-room escape video game. He draws the reader in and gives clues to work through the novel and the mystery with the three friends.

As a fan of Ernie Cline’s Ready Player One and Chris Grabenstein’s Escape from Mr. Lemonchello’s Library, I think this novel is a perfect middle-grades read. (Basically, I’ve convinced my middle-grades reader that he’ll love it.)  Also, having spent a great deal of time on Harry Potter these past few months, there are some eerie connections between these three characters—Ted, Caleb, and Isabel—and Harry, Ron, and Hermione. But, even with these similarities, the novel does not disappoint.

I also appreciate Markell using the novel to create an interest in the Japanese-American soldiers who fought in the 100th Infantry Battalion and 442nd Infantry Brigade during World War II. He also addresses the internment of Japanese Americans during WWII and the Monument Men and destruction art during the war. Married to the fabulous illustrator, Melissa Iwai, my guess is Ted is in some ways fashioned after their son.

Markell’s work will be a hit, and he has set as the first in a series where Ted and his friends will continue to solve mysteries and play video games together. Plus, the cover of the novel will be something that people rave about. A fabulous connection to gaming and a win for artist


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