Fresh voices make this story a winner.
Jax Malone is bored with her 12th birthday. Her presents are unexciting—“…nail polish, a couple of Starbucks cards. Big yawn”—and she is not even interested in a package addressed to her delivered in that day’s mail. That is, until her mother whisks it away, forbidding her to open it. Jax can’t stand secrets, and with the help of her shy cousin, Ethan, she finds and opens the package. It contains a mystery that Jax and Ethan need help solving, so they trick Ethan’s older brother, Tyler, an obnoxious genius computer gamer, into helping. The story is told in first person, in alternating chapters by Jax and Ethan (made easy to follow by a distinct typeface for each). Jax’s wry, confident voice juxtaposed against Ethan’s insecure, retiring one, along with Tyler’s supergeek, out-of-touch arrogance, combine to create many laugh-out-loud moments. Pursuing the mystery carries the three from their New Jersey home to Washington, D.C. Along the way, they elude a villainous couple and search for a rogue great-aunt. As they work together to solve the mystery, the cousins conquer individual fears and forge a bond with one another, learning to respect their differences.
Readers will relish this sparkling adventure, which offers plenty of action, humor, age-appropriate danger and mental calisthenics. (Mystery. 9-12)