The Code Busters Club: The Secret of the Skeleton Key
By Penny Warner
Expected publication August 23, 2011 by EgmontUSA
I was pretty excited to be handed a free copy of this at ALA: it sounded like a great middle grade novel, the start to a series and perfect for programming tie-ins with its focus on codes and puzzles. I have to say that, upon completion, I'm pretty disappointed. I'm firmly of the belief that you don't need to dumb things down for kids. This might be hard to believe considering my review of Wildwood just a few weeks ago. While I think that book might have been a little vocab-heavy, I think kids are fully capable of appreciating complex storylines and puzzling out things they might not fully understand (or searching to find that understanding). With this book, Warner makes everything way too simplistic - the dialogue, the characters, the plot - everything seems way too easy. For me, this really hindered my enjoyment of the book. It made me feel like Warner thinks kids are incapable of understanding complicated mysteries. The mystery here was not much of a mystery at all - that's how dumbed-down it was. The positives for this book are that it's, by default of its simplicity, a quick and easy read and the focus on codes and puzzles is something that I think will appeal to a lot of kids. Personally, though, I won't be clamoring for more in the series.
Thanks to the publisher for an advance reader's copy.