Mystery of the Puzzle Bones by T.A. Smith
(Summary taken from the back book cover) “Jaydon, Caleb, Ethan, Brandon and Roscoe the dog have a great hideout, but someone is leaving a strange puzzle of bones in the Boardunders Clubhouse. Someone has found them and wants to lead them deeper into the sewers to a place that doesn’t want to be found and a people that would do anything to protect their secret. The danger becomes extreme when they are forced to run for their lives. Can they escape, and who can they trust to help?”
**Spoiler Alert!!!! But if you are a parent who has a child that wants to read this book, please read on.**
I was really excited to read this book. I have a ten year-old who reads so much I can’t keep up. I am out of ideas for him at the moment, and thought this sounded like a great book for him. I liked it at the beginning. The boys seemed nice, although I would have liked some more development with each character. I never really felt a connection to any of them. Jaydon was the best developed, but I digress. I know my son would love their hideout and was getting excited when they found the puzzle bones. Then it all went downhill. I was so sad. The kids go after the dog (I did like the dog) and find a secret doorway. This leads them down some rickety stairs (I liked it to here.) and into an underground shanty town filled with homeless people and fugitives. And most of these characters are scary and dangerous. They do not want to be found out, so they will kill these children. They find this little girl, who happened to be the one that left the bones, and she takes them to her dad, who isn’t too happy to see them. They run for their lives and manage to escape before this scary, dangerous, armed man comes after them. They go home. Then Caleb goes with his dad to the Rescue Mission (Caleb quotes scriptures and almost preaches to the other boys throughout the book, which I was fine with.) and takes Ethan with him. Inside the Rescue Mission they see a poster of the girl they found underground, and she has been kidnapped by her dad, and taken away from her mom. It gets worse. Ethan thinks they should save her, so he hides in a bag of blankets and goes back down into the shanty town to save her.
Okay. I loved the concept of this book. Kids with a secret hideout and finding lots of adventures is fun. I liked the bones mystery, I liked them exploring. But I really think that the content of an underground shanty town filled with fugitives and kidnapped children is too much for this age group. I do not want my ten year-old being scared that there are people living in our sewer system, I do not want him reading about children being kidnapped by their dads and hidden in deplorable conditions underground. This reminds me too much of a very adult book I reveiwed a while back called “The Liquid City” by Curtis Hopfenbeck that had a very similar situation and it was not child-friendly at all. Also, I do not want my child to think that he can solve problems like that on his own. Those children should have gone straight to their parents for help. Instead, they decided to put their lives in danger. Also, because of their actions, the town was cleared out by the time the police got there. The police could have taken in the fugitives and maybe helped some of the people living there if they had gotten there first. I would have loved it if the boys had found an underground fantasy world or aliens living underground, or even a homeless family that they could have helped. Unfortunately, I think this storyline is just too much for the 8-12 age group.
I usually do not read other reviews of books I review, but this time I wanted to see what other people said. I wanted to see if I was being over-sensitive. According to the other reviews, I am. The other reviews I read seemed fine with the content. So I asked around. I asked my husband and a few friends with kids in this age group, and they agreed with me. They, too, thought the storyline was too heavy for children this age. Therefore, it is up to you, as a parent , to decide what is best for your child.
Rating: PG-13 (Underground shanty town with fugitives, kidnapped children, armed men)
Recommendation: 16 years and up. I might even go older. It is up to the parent to decide for each individual child.