Ted is a master at playing escape-the-room games on the computer. At the start of a game, it’ll show a room and there’s only one way out. He’s got to find the clues and puzzle out the solution. There might be a bunch of drinking glasses on a tray—at first it doesn’t look like there’s anything special about them, but then he’ll notice they’re arranged to look like the hands of a clock, and that will be an important clue to solving the game. It’s an awesome feeling when everything clicks together in his brain and he gets it right.

Ted expects to spend the summer playing these escape games. Then his Japanese great-uncle wants to see him. The old man is in the hospital with tubes up his nose. They’ve never been close, so Ted doesn’t know why he wants to see him—and alone. Even more surprising, his great-uncle starts asking him about the computer games he plays. No grown-up has ever asked Ted details about his games before, and his great-uncle seems genuinely interested, especially in his skill at escape games.

After a while, the old man slumps back in his bed. “I feel so much better about everything. You are ready.”  Huh?? And then one last strange comment: “The box is only the beginning. Keep looking for the answers. Always go for broke! Promise me!”

The great-uncle dies that night. In his will, he leaves Ted the entire contents of his apartment “with all the treasure it contains…Search hard and you will find it.”

It appears that Ted has inherited a real-life escape-the-room game. And treasure—if he can be the first one to find it.

Genre: realistic, mystery

Grades 5-8.


J’s take on it:

Along with GhostClick Here to Start has been one of my most popular titles among 5th and 6th grade boys this spring. I love finding titles like these that really resonate with the students—it makes my job so much fun.

My audiences clearly know more about escape-the-room games than I do. When I ask for a show of hands, the majority say they’ve played escape games before. This probably contributes to the interest kids have in the book, but I found the story to be accessible and compelling even without that background.

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