Book Review: Book Scavenger

Posted May 21, 2015 by Kara in book review, Kara / 2 Comments

Book Review: Book ScavengerBook Scavenger by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman
Published by Henry Holt Books for Young Readers on June 2nd, 2015
Genres: middle grade, mystery-thriller
Pages: 368
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon

A hidden book. A found cipher. A game begins . . . .

Twelve-year-old Emily is on the move again. Her family is relocating to San Francisco, home of her literary idol: Garrison Griswold, creator of the online sensation Book Scavenger, a game where books are hidden all over the country and clues to find them are revealed through puzzles. But Emily soon learns that Griswold has been attacked and is in a coma, and no one knows anything about the epic new game he had been poised to launch. Then Emily and her new friend James discover an odd book, which they come to believe is from Griswold and leads to a valuable prize. But there are others on the hunt for this book, and Emily and James must race to solve the puzzles Griswold left behind before Griswold's attackers make them their next target.

Book Scavenger is my 7th middle grade read of the year, and the 2nd this month. It was cute and I loved the setting, but I was actually hoping for more out of this book than I got.

It’s the story of a girl who lives the life of a nomad. Her parents have a major case of wanderlust, and it’s their goal to live in every state in the United States at some point in their lives. Unfortunately for Emily, this means she never gets to live in one place for very long, so forget about getting settled and/or making a best friend. She lives out of her suitcase.

The one thing that irritated me and wasn’t touched on until the very end was how SELFISH Emily’s parents were for living the lifestyle that they did with two children. Her older brother doesn’t seem to be bothered by this lifestyle but I call bullshit because he’s in high school, and there is no way in hell a high schooler wouldn’t care about staying put. I found that incredibly unrealistic.

And then we get into the story, and the literary puzzle that made up most of the book. I just found it boring. I expected it to be more fun, I wanted more reader participation, interaction–I wanted to be able to solve some of it with Emily and James, and it just wasn’t written like that which was a pretty big letdown.

It wasn’t all bad, though. I loved San Francisco as a setting. It was the perfect place for a book like this, and I loved the way the author presented the city through her writing.

The game of Book Scavenger is based on Geocaching, and going into this book, I didn’t know that. Here’s the thing: this wouldn’t actually WORK as a game because books are too large. Geocache prizes are like little capsules, film canisters, tiny tins, etc. And in this book, Emily was hiding books in fountains, under benches, in stores…people that weren’t playing Book Scavenger would find those books and steal them or move them, so the whole time I was reading this novel I couldn’t help thinking how implausible the premise was.

I mean, it was fun, but it just wasn’t very well thought out. I wish there was a way to hide books and that a game like this could work out, but that isn’t the world we live in, unfortunately. And when I am reading a book, it has to make context within the world-building of the story. Since this was set in realistic, present time, I’m going to think about the world I live in now, and it’s just not possible. Maybe if the author had set this in an alternate world or the past or something. I don’t know.

Anyway, she tried. It was cute, the characterizations were okay but could have been a bit more diverse–we had the token Asian best friend and that was it–but it was a fun way to pass a few hours. And that’s about it. Book Scavenger was just okay for me.


2 responses to “Book Review: Book Scavenger

  1. Yeah, if their reaction to their parents’ nomad lifestyle was like “Ehh, who cares?” I’d call bullshit on that, too. You’d be leaving friends and established relationship and your attachment to the home you’ve lived in, I would have gone nuts! They would have challenged their parents and how they imposed their lifestyle on their two children.

    In any case, too bad the execution was lacking. This is my problem with most “problem/riddle solving adventure books”… they just lack the execution to make it work and to make it seem natural.
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