It’s not perfect, but it’s the best I could come up with to describe Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library. The premise is very Charlie and the Chocolate Factory…renowned (eccentric) game inventor Luigi Lemoncello is connected to the fabulous new library in Kyle Keeley’s hometown, and it turns out the extra-credit essay that Kyle forgot to do is his ticket into the grand opening overnight celebration. Kyle, of course, manages to overcome his memory lapse to end up as one of the 12 12-year-olds who attend the celebration; the event takes a more exciting turn, however, when they find themselves locked in the next morning, with a set of rules governing their search for a way out. (Don’t worry. They have the option to opt out.) The ensuing twists and turns are always surprising; there is also a bit of a Harry Potter-esque emphasis on friendship and teamwork over ‘every man for himself.’ My favorite thing about the book, though, was Mr. Lemoncello’s sly dropping of book titles into his every conversation. (Newbery titles abound, but not only Newberys!) He reminded me–very slightly, you understand–of Robin Williams’ Genie.
This book is a whole lot of fun; it keeps you guessing (mostly because of the sheer number of different puzzles and riddles involved); and it’s very easy to read. Part of me really wants to give it five stars; the other part of me is struggling because it’s not the perfect fit for me, either topically or stylistically. The thing is, neither of those things are anyone’s fault but mine. It’s a good topic, and the writing style is perfect for contemporary, approachable works of intermediate fiction; it just so happens that I prefer historical fiction, with either a more formal or a more poetic style. That’s my thing. On the other hand, I’m glad I stepped out of my box to read this one. It was worth it.