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Click Here to Start

Review

Click Here to Start

In CLICK HERE TO START, debut novelist Denis Markell gives readers a fun, puzzle-filled mystery that also offers glimpses into elements of American history.
 
So many of my friends who are writers and editors --- “word people,” if you will --- have mentioned to me that one of their very favorite books when they were younger was Ellen Raskin’s brilliant THE WESTING GAME. I’m no exception, which means that whenever I come across a book that promises to offer even a fraction of Raskin’s blend of mystery, puzzles, humor and whimsy, I snap it up. That’s what drew me to Denis Markell’s new novel, CLICK HERE TO START, and I wasn’t disappointed.

“Markell...cleverly and largely subtly incorporates other elements about Ted’s family history...and, by extension, the history of the country, thereby raising the stakes for Ted’s story….”

Twelve-year-old Ted is kind of an average kid on the outside, nothing like his hotshot older sister Lila, who’s just finished her freshman year at Harvard. But Ted has a secret talent that few people other than his best friend Caleb can appreciate: he’s an outstanding video game player, excelling at the kind of puzzle game that requires the player to use a series of objects to escape from a room.
 
Most of the time, Ted is satisfied to get the high score on online games like this. But when his elderly great-uncle (also named Ted) hints on his deathbed that he has a secret just for Ted, and when, after his great-uncle’s death, Ted receives all of his crowded apartment’s possessions in his will, he begins to realize that he just might be embarking on a real-life puzzle even more complicated than the ones he excels at online.
 
Accompanied by Caleb and brainy, too-perfect new girl Isabel, Ted is at first not sure there’s anything real to find. But when he starts receiving cryptic messages on an online gaming site, and when it becomes clear that someone else is also pursuing his great-uncle’s secrets, Ted begins to realize that there might be much more at stake than a potential high score.
 
The mystery element of CLICK HERE TO START, as well as the clever tie-ins to video game culture would make this a rewarding and entertaining story in its own right. But Markell also cleverly and largely subtly incorporates other elements about Ted’s family history (his dad is Jewish, his mom Japanese-American) and, by extension, the history of the country, thereby raising the stakes for Ted’s story and for the elusive treasure he and his friends (as well as some potential enemies?) are seeking.
 
Certainly Markell doesn’t tie up all the loose threads of Ted’s story, leaving things open for a sequel or two. But readers who pick up CLICK HERE TO START will be pleased to find elements of books like THE MYSTERIOUS BENEDICT SOCIETY, CHASING VERMEER, or, yes, even THE WESTING GAME in this promising debut.

Reviewed by Norah Piehl on August 3, 2016

Click Here to Start
by Denis Markell

  • Publication Date: August 1, 2017
  • Genres: Adventure, Children's 10-14, Mystery
  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Yearling
  • ISBN-10: 1101931906
  • ISBN-13: 9781101931905