Sunday, June 18, 2017
The Explorers: The Door in the Alley by Adrienne Kress
This story begins, like most stories do, with a pig wearing a teeny hat. And I'm sure right now you're thinking to yourself, "I've read this story before." But please let me assure you that this isn't that pig in a teeny hat story you're reading but the other one. The one you haven't read. Yet.
This is the opening to The Explorers: The Door in the Alley by Adrienne Kress. Sebastian is the hero and eventually we meet Evie, who becomes his partner in mystery-solving and adventure. I knew I was going to love the story as soon as I read that first page because I adore an author who writes with a sense of the absurd.
Sebastian is a 12-year-old with a devotion to routine, a photographic memory, a love of maps, and a propensity for science and math. His entire family is equally nerdy, so he gets a great deal of support in his pursuits. Evie is 11 years old, alone and sad, her parents dead, her only escape from the children's home in which she lives a weekly dinner with two very beige people called the Andersons who feed her beige food.
WARNING: The rest of this review contains spoilers. Skip down to the rating if you're concerned.
Then, things begin to change. Sebastian is forced to take a different route home from school and when he does, he happens across a door in an alley that says, "The Explorers Club". And, because of a pig in a teeny hat, he eventually ends up working behind that door and discovering a box full of photographs and newspaper clippings. Evie is out for her weekly dinner when two scary men show up at the Andersons' house looking for a key and Evie ends up having to escape from a fire with a mysterious letter sent by a man she thought was dead: her grandfather.
What happened to the people in the photos hidden inside the box Sebastian has found in The Explorers Club? Why does mentioning their names anger the club's members? How is the letter connected to the contents of the box? Will Sebastian and Evie be able to put all the clues together and duck all the bullets the two bad guys are shooting at them?
Highly recommended - Wow, what an adventure. I love the fact that the hero and heroine in this exciting middle grade book are very sharp kids, weird things happen, the book is action-packed to the point that sometimes you're practically hyperventilating at the end of an exciting scene, and the author has a wicked sense of humor. My only warning is that The Explorers: The Door in the Alley unfortunately ends on a cliffhanger. In fact, the author even makes a joke out of the cliffhanger - you have to love it that she's at least witty about it while she's ripping the proverbial rug out from under your feet. I call it a warning (maybe the correct word is "complaint") because I absolutely hate cliffhangers and often will refuse to buy a second book in a series if a first story isn't entirely wrapped up in some form. The rare exceptions are the books I love so much that I really must read on.
The Explorers may be one of those rare exceptions to my cliffhanger rule. It was so massively entertaining that it would have gotten 5 stars from me if it hadn't been a cliffhanger (I only took one star off -- and, in hindsight, that seems a bit harsh; I'll go back and change it to 4.5/5 at Goodreads). I love the characters. Sebastian is meticulous but kind and gracious. He means well and it's difficult for him to break rules, even when he's encouraged. Evie is sad, at first, but once given a challenge she puts her whole heart into solving the mystery, although she's definitely invested in it because it involves searching for a family member. And, she also really knows her mind. She's a nice, strong heroine. The writing is excellent and often very, very funny, the pacing perfect -- she does give you a break, just as you're really gasping for air -- and The Explorers Club is an imaginative place that you can't help but wish existed. Also, there's a cat named David Copperfield. Who doesn't love a book with a cat? A perfect read for any adventure-loving kid and the first in a series.
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