Series: Floors #1
Leo Fillmore lives in the greatest place on earth—the Whippet Hotel, consisting of nine (known) floors each full of rooms that boggle the imagination. The Cake Room. The Pinball Room. The Flying Farm Room. As the son of the maintenance man, Leo knows these rooms better than most, but even he is unprepared for the day the owner goes missing and the hotel starts to fall apart. With a mysterious box to guide him and a duck at his side, Leo sets forth to save the hotel before there’s nothing left at all.
Usually when a book blurb compares a story to previously published works, I am skeptical. How many books have you read that are actually the “new Harry Potter” or “Harry Potter meets Narnia” or anything like that? Never? Well, me, too. And yet, I think it fair to say that Floors really is something of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory meets Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library”.
Leo Fillmore helps his father keep the world’s wackiest hotel in working order, whether that means walking Mr. Whippet’s beloved ducks or fixing the air conditioning so the Cake Room does not melt out of existence. In the process, he gets to ride the Double Helix (the hotel’s version of Willy Wonka’s crazy elevator), play a life-sized version of pinball in the Pinball Room, and wander through the hotel’s secret assortment of tunnels and hidden doors. The inventions in the hotel are, in fact, so outrageous that only the richest of the rich can afford to stay there. And the hotel itself is so exclusive that only Mr. Whippet holds the key card to all the rooms.
A great premise, no? Leo essentially lives in the hotel version of Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory and it’s only going to get wackier. Because now Mr. Whippet is gone, someone is sabotaging the hotel, and Leo has two days and a mysterious box to save it all. I had hopes for something along the lines of The Mysterious Benedict Society—a puzzle book where readers can solve clues along with the characters—but the story is closer to Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library in that only the characters can solve the clues and that the clues are not exactly that mysterious. The box, for example? Actually a scaled-down model of a room Leo needs to navigate; he literally holds the key to the entire puzzle in his hands. And if he does happen to get lost? Luckily, a mysterious figure always follows his progress so as to provide clues if anything should go amiss.
The insertion of the unseen figure dispels a lot of the suspense in the story (Leo never has to puzzle over a clue for long before the man tells him the answer) while also raising a lot of questions. Clearly the clue box comes from Mr. Whippet, so the man must, as well. But if the man is helping them, why does he put Leo in so much physical danger? There are moments when Leo could be concussed, vaporized, or sliced into pieces. Is this some sort of practical joke on Mr. Whippet’s part? And, if it is, does he really think it’s funny? Then there’s the question of why Leo needs to solve these puzzles at all. It supposedly has something to do with saving the hotel, but if Mr. Whippet still has adult contacts around to guide Leo, why not use them to save the hotel? The reveal at the end fails to answer any of these questions. Maybe readers are just supposed to assume Mr. Whippet really is that wacky.
Aside from the sort of senseless premise, however, Floors is a fun read. Leo is a likable character—smart, friendly, and willing to share the oddities of the hotel with the new boy Remi. Furthermore, readers get to explore a lot of quirky rooms with the characters while also meeting an assortment of quirky characters ranging from the nasty Ms. Sparks to the talkative robot Blop. Each new clue Leo receives is an invitation into another strange adventure, one that readers will never anticipate.
So even though I still do not understand why Leo went on some strange, dangerous treasure hunt through the hotel, I would like to continue this trilogy. New rooms and new secrets await. I’d like to be there when Leo discovers them.