jennifer chambliss bertman

New Books: Book Scavenger

Book Scavenger (The Book Scavenger series)
By Jennifer Chambliss Bertman

If you know me, you know that I am a sucker for books about readers. (See also: Possession, Inkheart, the Thursday Next chronicles.) So when I read the concept for this book — a girl who’s obsessed with a global book-hunting online game and who may have discovered the first clue in its founder's new, hotly anticipated literary game — I was sold. Book Scavenger, you had me at ‘hello.’”

Happily, the book is pretty charming even if you aren’t obsessed with books set in the world of reading. Twelve-year-old Emily has just moved to San Francisco, her family’s ninth move and part of her parents’ blog-chronicled plan to live in all 50 states. Emily, unlike her freewheeling older brother Matthew, yearns to stay in one place long enough to get bored and make real friends — but every time a place starts to feel like home, her parents start loading up the minivan for their next adventure. Fortunately Emily has Book Scavenger wherever she goes, an online game where participants hide books, leaving clues for other Scavengers to find them — the more complicated the clue, the better. In Emily’s mind, the one good thing about moving to San Francisco is that it’s the home of Book Scavenger creator Garrison Griswold, who’s getting ready to announce his next big game. Maybe being in Griswold’s city will give her an edge.

To her surprise, Emily discovers that San Francisco isn’t such a bad place to live. She even makes a friend, her upstairs neighbor James who turns out to be a puzzle-solving pro. After Griswold is attacked at a BART station and hospitalized, Emily finds a curious book near the site of the attack that she thinks might be the first clue in Griswold’s now-delayed new game. With James’s and Matthew’s help, Emily starts to follow to clues, leading her through San Francisco’s literary history. Along the way, she runs into more than one roadblock, including two shady characters determined to get their hands on the Griswold book and the challenges of learning how to be a real friend when she's used to going it alone.

Book Scavenger is a fun read with nicely developed characters and lots of literary inside jokes. (Em’s parents, for instance, named their minivan Sal after a Kerouac character.) It’s targeted at middle grades readers, who will probably appreciate it, but I think younger and older kids who enjoy books like The Mysterious Benedict Society or The Puzzling World of Winston Breen will enjoy it, too.