Series: Book Scavenger
Author: Jennifer Chambliss Bertman
Age group: 9 - 14 years
Page count: 368 pages
Publication date: April 25th, 2017
Summary from Barnes & Noble:
Could books hidden through Book Scavenger be linked to an arsonist's web of destruction? Find out in Book 2 of Jennifer Bertman's Book Scavenger series.
Mr. Quisling is definitely up to something mysterious, and Emily and James are on high alert. First, there’s the coded note he drops at a book event. Then they uncover a trail of encrypted messages in Mark Twain-penned books hidden through Book Scavenger. What’s most suspicious is that each hidden book triggers a fire.
As the sleuthing friends dig deeper, they discover Mr. Quisling has been hunting a legendary historical puzzle: the Unbreakable Code. This new mystery is irresistible, but Emily and James can’t ignore the signs that Mr. Quisling might be the arsonist. The clock is ticking as the fires multiply, and Emily and James race to crack the code of a lifetime.
I love learning about new ciphers and codes. The Unbreakable Code immersed me in a whole new world of codes. Substitution ciphers are simple things the protagonists use quite often. I love how the author made difficult situations really fun. As the characters struggle to solve a code, someone suggests a cipher and we learn how to use it. The characters become intrigued and provide a few examples for the reader and other characters to understand. Often, these ciphers influence the Unbreakable Code.
There is a whole lot of action in here. Arson, following mysterious teachers around San Francisco, eavesdropping, "hacking" into online quests.. There is action on every turn. Everything the characters do is connected with the plot. Foreshadowing is an important element. A fun school dance can turn into a showdown between two teachers, or a celebration at a bookstore can turn into the beginning of a mystery. Sometimes it feels like the story is going too fast. I think that the setting in San Francisco contributed to the action.
The characters are so determined. I think that it's amazing how they stick with things. They do so much, it's hard to comprehend their emotions. In the book, Emily was worried about something, and less than a chapter later, it was solved. I didn't feel like I could connect with their characters. A good book's emotions reminds me of the heartbeat of a living person, up and down. The emotions in this book seemed dull and lifeless.
There is no character growth at all. The author pulls in some surprise family issues - the possibility of moving, lack of money, etc. Issues like these often lead to the protagonist making assumptions that could jeopardize the situation. All Emily does is worry about it. The characters do not undergo something that tests their faith and strength in each other. The relationship between Emily and James didn't teach me much. I feel that a relationship should teach me something, and sadly, the relationships in this book lacked the lessons I feel it needed.
I was bugged because in order to solve a puzzle, you had to use lemon juice/ultraviolet light. Even though it is highly probably I would've never solved it, I felt that readers should've been able to try and solve the cipher themselves.
A horrible cliché in mystery books is when the characters eavesdrop on some information. They aren't supposed to learn it, or it is just casually tossed in a conversation, and with a little digging, it is pivotal to the plot! It's frustrating because, voilà, the information they need is right there , and how convenient, it's in a conversation they were listening to! Unfortunately, this happened in The Unbreakable Code.
Book Scavenger seemed a little lost. In the previous book, Book Scavenger was a fun, interactive game and I learned a lot about how it worked! In The Unbreakable Code , it seems very flat. There is no amazing chase to find a book, or finding new hidden copies with a cipher. In this book, we found the same copy of the same book, and its' contents had little to do with the plot. I think that it's very innovative to create a website for it.
I don't think the chapters from the antagonist's POV added to the story. It provided the information of what the antagonist called himself, what he used for arson, and that he was doing this for revenge. I think that foreshadowing who the antagonist was could've been better.
I also think that the historical significance of the Gold Rush could've been better communicated.
The Unbreakable Code is a fun book filled with puzzles and ciphers. The next book will be very similar to Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library by Chris Grabenstein. Although it is filled with action, I feel that it could've contained some important life lessons. I enjoyed it, but after rereading it I noticed more and more flaws.
Another book readers might be interested in is The Spy's Handbook by Herbie Brennan. Although it focuses on spies, it teaches a lot of fun new codes and ciphers.
Taken from her website.
I have a guest review of See You in the Cosmos by Jack Cheng over at Kitty Cat at the Library.
Thanks for joining me this week! MMGM is hosted by author Shannon Messenger.