I'm not really the ideal audience for this book. Even when I was younger I didn't like these "wish-fulfillment" type stories -- Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
, The Candymakers
, The Mysterious Benedict Society
... none of them did anything for me.
If you're wondering about the "type" of book I'm referencing, I mean books that are set in a realistic setting that include some element of the plot that fulfills a kid's, "Wouldn't that be cool if ...?" sort of fantasy that would most likely never happen in the real world. The plot also usually involves some sort of puzzle/mystery and the chosen kids are "special" in some way (and also pretty one-dimensional -- you've got the overachieving kid, the rich kid, etc., and usually the "regular kid" who is a stand in for the reader and the main protagonist.)
I like realistic books, and I like fantasy/sci-fi, but I don't like this in-between stuff.
This book falls in line with the genre's typical tropes as listed above. The kids are locked in a library and challenged to find a way out by a famous gamemaker, and the winner will become the spokesperson for his brand. If you're a book nerd who happens to like this kind of book, then you'll have a lot of fun with this one. Even without being keen on the genre, I really enjoyed all the book references thrown in, both explicitly (the kids had to find a certain book) and obliquely (someone would slip a book title into dialogue without mentioning that it was a book, such as, "Due to this series of unfortunate events ...") It's clear that a true lover of children's literature wrote this, and it pays lovely homage to the books like this that have gone before it. If I liked this sort of thing, this book would have been excellent.
As it stands, my enjoyment came purely from references. The rest was sort of boring and a little borderline creepy. (Am I the only one who finds these types of books creepy? The benevolent adult who sets the adventure up always strikes me as a tad bit predator-ish.)