Why is it we always want what we can't have? I'm not talking about big things - a Mustang convertible, a vacation home in Hawaii, expensive jewelry. I'm talking about those things that are just within our reach until they aren't. Sometimes it's a material item. Sometimes it's an answer to a question. That feeling of it being just past your fingertips. Or even worse, the feeling of it slipping through your fingertips.
Of course, there is also the feeling of satisfaction of gaining the elusive item, or thought. It makes the hunt that much sweeter because of where you end. The feeling of victory.
This is the give and take you have as you read Laura Ruby's newest masterpiece, York: The Shadow Cipher.
York: The Shadow Cipher
by Laura Ruby
published by Walden Pond Press
It was 1798 when the Morningstarr twins arrived in New York with a vision for a magnificent city: towering skyscrapers, dazzling machines, and winding train lines, all running on technology no one had ever seen before. Fifty-, the enigmatic architects disappeared, leaving behind for the people of New York the Old York Cipher — a puzzle laid into the shining city they constructed, at the end of which was promised a treasure beyond all imagining. By the present day however, the puzzle has never been solved, and the greatest mystery of the modern world is little more than a tourist attraction.
Tess and Theo Biedermann and their friend Jaime Cruz live in a Morningstarr apartment house — until a real estate developer announces that the city has agreed to sell him the five remaining Morningstarr buildings. Their likely destruction means the end of a dream long-held by the people of New York. And if Tess, Theo, and Jaime want to save their home, they have to prove that the Old York Cipher is real. Which means they have to solve it.
We are thrown into the mystery of the Cipher very quickly and that feeling of being so clue to the right clue, but not knowing exactly what we're looking for. Luckily we have the characters Theo, Tess and Jaime as our guides. Since the story is moved forward in alternating chapters, we glean little bits of information about our characters within their chapters. What keeps the reader going, is the desire to see the puzzle solved. The Cipher isn't just any puzzle. It seems to be a living and breathing entity. Do you solve the Cipher or does it solve you?
I was constantly amazed at Laura Ruby's writing. The way she was able to weave the story and clues. This is not your run of the mill mystery that has clues that you can see coming a mile away. The clues are smart, require just a bit of disbelief, and are pieced together in a way that makes it believable that the Cipher has not been solved. And a fair warning, once you get to the last 100 pages of the novel, be prepared to have a chunk of time to read it in one sitting. The way all the pieces start to fit together will take you on a wild ride. But what would an adventure like this be without a cliffhanger and promise of book 2??
The setting was also very fitting for this novel. Mostly realistic, with a touch of steampunk and a little bit of history. It made it complex and alternative. Perfect for this book.
As I read this novel, I quickly reached for a pad of post-it notes. There were moments I wanted to remember, ideas I wanted to track. As a literacy coach, I've worked with teachers and students to work on tracking ideas across a novel. Keeping track of ideas, pulling them together, finding ideas to write longer about. This novel is perfect for this type of work. I would love to see groups of students reading, noting, thinking and conversing about this complex novel!
But don't just take my word...
Here's what the critics are saying:
“In this smart, immersive series starter, Ruby expertly juggles stunning plot choreography, realistic stakes in a captivating fantasy setting, well-wrought characters, and flashes of sharp cultural commentary.” — Booklist (starred review)
“This first volume opens up an ever expanding sense of magic, culminating in a bittersweet ending that promises bigger things to come. The past informs the present as the review informs readers: don’t let this one go.” — Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Ruby’s latest is a high-stakes mystery novel filled with intriguing puzzles, solid world-building, and diverse characters. An engaging series opener that will leave readers eagerly awaiting future installments.” — School Library Journal (starred review)
Be sure to look at other bloggers' ideas about this gorgeous novel:
The Haunting of Orchid Forsythia
And don't miss the amazing Educator Guide put together by teacher extraordinaire, Melissa Guerrette!
The Cipher contains puzzles that have been a mystery for years. Are your students interested in puzzles? Try these activities, based on the book.
More about author Laura Ruby:
Laura Ruby is the author of books for adults, teens, and children, including Bone Gap, a National Book Award finalist and Michael L. Printz Award winner, among dozens of other accolades. Her other books include the Edgar-nominated mysteryLily’s Ghosts, the Book Sense Pick Good Girls, and the acclaimed novels Play Me and Bad Apple. She is on the faculty of Hamline University’s MFA in writing for children and young adults program and lives in the Chicago area. You can visit her online at www.lauraruby.com
Be sure to pick up a copy on May 16th! This is a book that is sure to fly off the shelves!
Thank you to Walden Pond Press for the review copy and for the opportunity to giveaway a signed copy of the book! Fill out the google form for the chance to win York: The Shadow Cipher. The giveaway will remain open until 7pm CST May 14th, open to US residents, must be 13 years old to enter.