March 8, 2014

The Secret Box - Whitaker Ringwald

The Secret Box - Whitaker Ringwald
The Secret Box by Whitaker Ringwald
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Publication Date: February 25, 2014
Source/Format: Edelweiss (Thanks Harper Collins!) || e-galley
[I received this book for review from the publisher. This in no way affects the thoughts expressed in my review.]

On her 12th birthday Jax Malone receives a surprise gift from her estranged Great-Aunt Juniper: a mysterious locked box that will only open in one location. If Jax's mom hadn't tried to return it, Jax would have assumed it was just another boring present to add to the most boring, un-magical birthday ever.

Instead, Jax decides she must open the box. So she recruits her reluctant cousin Ethan and his obnoxious, computer-genius older brother Tyler to help find the site where the box will open.

But what starts as a fun adventure quickly turns crazy, even dangerous, when Jax, Ethan, and Tyler learn that the box was not intended as a gift, but as a call for help from an ancient magical source thought to only exist in myth. (from Goodreads)

The Secret Box is another middle grade adventure that has our main trio – Jax Malone and her cousins Ethan and Tyler – scrambling to figure out the secret of a box Jax receives as a birthday present for her 12th birthday. Successfully combining the thrill of a mystery, a hint of espionage and a few mythological elements, The Secret Box was a pretty enjoyable read.

Honestly, of the main characters, Ethan is my favorite. He spouts random facts like nobody’s business, which already makes him cool to me. Plus, he happens to be the most cautious member of the trio, always worrying about the effects of their actions and trying to make sure that things go smoothly. He might be a little bit of a nerd, and a little introverted, but his loyalty and smarts really make him fun to read about.

Jax is loud, headstrong, impulsive and very much the dominant one in her friendship with Ethan. Her endless curiosity and the need to satisfy it get her into a lot of crazy situations! Plus, she did have a tendency to be a little self-absorbed. But I do admire her determination to get some answers, as she just basically will not give up.

Tyler actually comes into the story a little later, though readers are given a first impression of him through Jax and Ethan. He appears to be nothing more than a geeky, computer-addicted boy, whose intelligence and lack of social graces are fairly stereotypical. However, he really comes into his own over the course of this adventure and turns into an admirable older brother.

The story is really where The Secret Box succeeded in keeping me entertained. Even though half the dangerous things they experienced are a little fantastical, it was still fun! In a way, it kind of reminded me of The 39 Clues series, with the same intensity and thrill behind figuring things out and outwitting the bad guys. The mythological aspect that is woven in, on the other hand, brought to mind the Percy Jackson series, though it is only lightly touched upon as part of the plot here.

Even though it didn’t quite match up to the caliber of the other two series I’ve mentioned in this review, The Secret Box was definitely an enjoyable middle grade romp. If you’re a fan of middle grade books that have fantastical, fun adventures, well, you’re in luck! The Secret Box will definitely fill that specific craving.


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