Author: Sean Vogel
Publisher: MB Publishing
DISCLOSURE: Unlike the majority of reviews in this blog, I've neither bought this book nor borrowed it from the library. This is a "galley" copy ebook, supplied by Net Galley. I'm not receiving (nor will I expect to receive or accept) remuneration of any kind for this review.
This novel is, quite frankly, way too young for me. It’s off the lower end of young-adult, written for an audience even younger than that. If you think of the movie Home Alone, you will be in the right ball-park, especially given that this novel has some large helpings of Home Alone slapstick at the end. But I knew, going into this, that it would be a younger read, so I'm not about to down-grade it for that. This novel is a worthy read for the right age group and I'm sure lots of kids close to, or just venturing into their teens will appreciate it. As I mentioned, it has significant elements of Home Alone in it, and while they're unrealistic, they will no doubt appeal to the target adience. In addition to that, it takes a surprisingly mature approach to the characters, despite what I've just said about the target age range.
Jake Mcgreevy is a fifteen-year-old boy whose mother was killed when he was only two years old. He is bound for Chicago for a two week music camp. The camp is inexplicably set over the Christmas and New Year's holiday period, and I have no idea why. That seems odd to me. If there was an explanation in the novel, I must have missed it. I admit I did skim some parts here and there which were not really very engrossing for me (and then had to track back on more than one occasion to catch up on something important that I’d missed!).
Jake and his best friend Ben play violin, which is a refreshing difference, and the two of them travel to Chicago on a specially arranged bus with ther best friend Julie, who is a gymnast. On the bus they meet Natalie, another violinist. All four children are smart, capable, curious about the world, well-educated, caring, and playful and all have a good sense of right and wrong, even though they don’t always heed it. They bond well, and are very loyal to each other, all of them becoming embroiled in the predictable unravelling of the mystery of Jake's mother's death - ruled a hit and run, but which, predictably, turns out to be anything but that simple.
Jake discovers cryptic clues left in a Chicago museum thirteen years earlier, by his mother. The clues are far too cryptic and unrealistic, but perhaps the target age range will not notice this. I should have my own son read this and comment on it from that PoV, but he's notoriously hard to talk into reading something which doesn't already have an inclination towards! If I do succeed, I'll add his comments to the blog review. Anyway, Jake follows the clues and eventually discovers a forged painting to which his late mother led him (she was evidently too late...), and he traps the bad guys, one of whom killed his mom. In process of slowly tracking down these unlikely clues the foursome goes through all sorts of interesting days at the music camp, getting into issues and scrapes which kids of their age inevitably will, but resolving them with smarts, a willingness to share, a willingness to take responsibility, a desire to resolve problems amicably, and a bit of early teen naughtiness!
I recommend this novel for age-appropriate readers.