The Book Scavenger by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman


Goodreads: The Book Scavenger
Series: Book Scavenger #1
Source: Library
Published: 2015


Emily’s parents have a quest to live in each of the fifty states, so this time it’s off to San Francisco, which just so happens to the home of Garrison Griswold, creator of Emily’s favorite game Book Scavenger.  Then Emily finds what appears to be the start of Griswold’s newest game.  Along with her new friend James, she’s ready to break ciphers and follow the clues to an unspecified treasure.  But others are after the treasure as well and they’re not afraid to break the rules.


Book Scavenger has the type of plot sure to appeal to readers everywhere, so it almost seems irrelevant to comment on the book as a whole.  After all, here you have a work where the protagonists hide their favorite books across the U.S. and create clues for others to find them.  Literature plus puzzles is a sure win, right?  The rest of the book may not be amazing, but the premise carries it.

Despite the seeming genius of the premise, and the seeming originality needed to create a book full of ciphers and clues, if I had to pick one word to describe Book Scavenger, I would have to use “solid.”  It’s good.  It’s interesting.  It’s enjoyable.  But it never rises above the other current middle-grade offerings.  Even the clues are a bit dull and not exactly what I would call tricky.  Maybe if you’ve never heard of Edgar Allan Poe, some of them would be harder to solve, but a quick Internet search will clear a lot of obstacles–problem-solving skills aren’t needed all that often.

The characters themselves are sympathetic, if not particularly memorable.  They have their defining traits–Emily doesn’t really like moving all the time, her brother is getting older and growing apart from her, and James likes puzzles and has a cowlick he’s named Steve.  Yes, James’s cowlick is easily (perhaps unfortunately) the most notable thing about him.  It’s a weird, jarring note in an otherwise pretty standard MG fare–MG does have stranger offerings, but this isn’t one of them, so Steve seems a little out of place.  And a little too prone to divert attention away from the main plot.  But, aside from these characteristics, I find it hard to describe exactly who these characters are.

However, the idea of searching for books is fun and sure to appeal to readers.  Puzzle books and treasure hunts are particularly popular in MG these days.  So Book Scavenger really does not have to distinguish itself to convince readers to pick it off the shelf.  It’s fun, and if that’s what you’re looking for, you are not likely to find yourself disappointed.

4 starsKrysta 64

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