Levine sends her readers on a quest for buried treasure and buried truths.
In 2015, Claudia Dalton’s life is suddenly turned upside down. On the last day of school, Claudia’s father, Jeff, sends a short email to his family saying that he will be home late—and then does not return. A few days later, Claudia’s mother, Jennifer, attends a conference in Switzerland, and Claudia stays with her recently widowed and still grieving paternal grandfather, Walter. While with Walter, Claudia frequently emails her father and finally receives an unlikely answer: a puzzle piece with a cryptic message telling her to find a time capsule buried in Jeff’s youth. With the help of her new friend, budding filmmaker Luis, Claudia begins a quest to find the time capsule and the secret that has suddenly separated her family. Using emails, text messages, telephone transcripts, Luis’ video footage, and other artifacts, Levine has created a masterwork of mystery that slowly unravels as Claudia learns more about her father’s life. Astute readers may guess what life-changing secret drove Jeff away from his family, but even if they do, they’ll keep reading to find out how this saga ultimately ends. The biggest trick is Levine’s ability to keep the characters both likable and realistic—this holds especially true for Jeff’s disappearing act and Jennifer’s slow-burn emotional journey.
Both an excellent read and an excellent puzzle. (Mystery. 9-12)