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Wednesday, August 24, 2016

"Click Here to Start" by Denis Markell (Reviewed by Cindy Hannikman)

OVERVIEW: 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.

FORMAT: Click Here to Start is a children's adventure/mystery novel. It is currently a standalone novel, but there is potential for a series as a lot of questions revolving the bigger plot (the game) are left unanswered.

Click Here to Start stands at 320 pages. It was published July 19, 2016 by Delacorte Books for Young Readers.

ANALYSIS: I have always been a huge fan of children's adventure/mystery novels. Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library, The Westing Game, and Book Scavenger all come to mind as some of my favorite children's books. Now, I can add a new title to that list – Click Here to Start.

Click Here to Start tells the story of Ted, a young boy who is a whiz at solving those 'escape room' puzzles. Ted recently visited his uncle in the hospital. During the visit, his uncle gave him some odd instructions, but Ted thought it was just a part of his uncle's quirky nature. The next day, Ted's uncle passes away and the will is read.

In the will, Ted is left all the contents of his uncle's apartment. Ted believes that somewhere in the apartment there is a treasure hidden and his uncle wants him to find it. Ted is unable to find the treasure on his first day in the apartment, but when he gets home he finds a mysterious online game called 'Game of Ted', which provides him with a step-by-step guide on how to find clues throughout the apartment that lead to the treasure.

As Ted and his two friends Caleb and Isabel, uncover clues in the apartment, it seems that there is more than meets the eye and that his uncle may have had a mysterious past that no one knew about. And he may be hiding a very valuable treasure. Unfortunately, other, dangerous people want that treasure too.

There is a lot to love about Click Here to Start. It is a fun, fast paced mystery novel that doesn't feel as if it is the same old, same old. First, the novel touches on some topics that aren't usually brought up in children's novels. Topics that include Japanese American camps internment camps, stealing of valuable treasures during that time, the importance of American soldiers that had Japanese ancestry during the war, and other topics.

These topics aren't the main focus of the novel, but they are introduced in a way that could spark people's interest. It was nice to see a novel try to shed some light on topics that aren't as popular in children's lit. Click Here to Start does a wonderful job of introducing people to these topics but not going overboard to the point that it seems like it has a hidden agenda or is focusing the topic on people.

Another amazing part of the book is the characters are believable. I have a hard time with books that have 11 or 12 year old characters that are running around all over the place like they are 16, 17, and 18 years old. The characters in the book are given some freedoms – sometimes a little too much (like cleaning out an apartment on their own in a neighborhood that is supposed to be a bit sketchy) – but it seemed realistic. The parents were all involved in some aspect, but didn't take center stage.

While I loved Click Here to Start, there are a few things that other readers may find a bit concerning. The first issue is the fact that some of the clues and clue solving came across as a bit unrealistic. Readers will have to suspend reality a bit, as a lot of the clue solving has to do with going on a computer game and finding the clues and learning how to solve them in real life.

The use of the computer game is real, but it brings up the question of – who is creating a real time game that allows Ted to play? Everything is done in real time and there are photos and actual details that would be hard for people to really know. This aspect might be difficult for some readers as it was a bit unrealistic. I was able to suspend disbelief and enjoy the book, but it did cross my mind of 'how is all this going down'.

I do think younger readers, the original audience, probably won't questions it as much as older readers. Books like Lemoncello's Library are just as unrealistic and they were hits too.

Who creates the computer game, how they created it, what their goals are, are never explained in the book. It appears that Click Here to Start may be a first book of a series, in which case we will get answers (hopefully).

Overall, I enjoyed reading Click Here to Start. I found it fun, unique, and fast paced. It might have its flaws at times, but it was enjoyable. I look forward to reading other books in the series if it is continued.


Lauren Stoolfire said...

Great review! This sounds really cool!

Jordan @ForeverLostinLiterature said...

This sounds fun! I enjoy reading middle grade books (they're generally my nighttime reading :) ), and this one sounds like it would be a really enjoyable read. Fortunately, I don't think the detractors of this book that you mentioned would prevent my enjoyment, so I appreciate you pointing them all out - great review!


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