Mystery fans rejoice, there is a new book that you are going to love! If you enjoy the suspense and the characters in books like Chasing Vermeer or Under the Egg, then you must try Click Here to Start. I should also mention that it has a preteen Ready, Player One sort of vibe.
So, where to start...Ted Gerson and his best friend Caleb enjoy escape the room games, video games where you have to search through all the items in a room and discover the clues to help you escape from the room. Ted always finished the games very quickly and is a reigning high score champion on every game he plays. Caleb plays for the fun of it, but isn't as intuitive about the games as Ted. What Caleb is really good at is art, and he would make an excellent graphic novelist when he grows up. When Ted's great-uncle leaves the contents of his apartment to Ted, Caleb tags along to help sort through all the piles of stuff (think "Hoarders"), and also to see if there might be any old comic books around. They also get some unexpected help from the daughter of Mr. Gerson's boss. Since they have just moved into the area, the parents think it would be good to get the kids together and let Isabel make some friends before school starts.
Together these three kids get pulled into a dangerous situation involving WWII, the history of the Nisei Brigade, Nazi confiscation of artwork and valuables during the war, and the Monuments Men. With Ted's gaming expertise, Caleb's artistic talents, and Isabel's vast knowledge of history and literature, the friends must solve the puzzles left by Great-Uncle Ted and find the "treasure" he left behind. Everything from UV spy pens to lip gloss are used to find and access information that they need to complete their mission. Readers learn a lot about escape the room games, American history, and problem-solving long the way.
The author does a wonderful job of showing that the kids are just normal tweens, not super heroes. Ted's father is a typical absent-minded professor, his mom is a nurse, and they both worry that Ted spends to much time on his laptop playing games rather than focusing on school work. Caleb's parents are divorced (his father left his mother for a younger woman), and spends much of his time drawing super hero characters beating up a bad guy that looks remarkably like his dad. Isabel's mother passed away and her father took this new job at the college where Ted's father works so that they could make a fresh start in a new place without so many memories. There are no James Bond type spy gadgets, no psychic powers, just kids who have hobbies they enjoy and that just happen to come in handy during their adventure.
If you like the way the kids work together in Blue Balliett's books, the transfer of skills from video games to solving real life mysteries, or the mix of American history into a quest for valuable objects (a bit like "National Treasure"), then this is the perfect book for you.
I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.