39 Clues: Maze of Bones
I came at this book skeptically but was surprised and pleased at how engaging I found it. Scholastic has decided to pull together ten strong children/ya authors (Riordan, Korman, Carman, etc) to write a fast moving, marketing friendly series.
One is plunged into the first book, introduced to characters all around and about the time you start to get a handle on what's going on--the book is over. Amy and Dan Cahill, having lost their favorite relative Grace, now are on a hunt to scour the globe and find 39 Clues that appear to be a path to great treasure. Up against them are a series of relatives on their own teams and own hunts. You never know who to trust or where the next possible alliance might come from but so far it's betrayal on all sides.
Amy and Dan are engaging characters--the former suffering awkwardness exacerbated by being an early teen, the latter a "normal" kid who likes his baseball card collection and teasing his older sister. While the other characters are more charicatures--Amy and Dan stand out as very real kids, a little brighter than average but concerned about very regular things (like lunch) and feeling natural fear at various points.
Riordan has done a good job of setting things in motion, giving the audience a huge cast to try and track and lots of ways the story could go. I look forward to handing this to even reluctant readers--there's a lot of action with moderate (not overwhelming) doses of history tossed in for good measure. I expect those who do grab the series to also be headed for the biography section as they are putting the next book on hold.
Korman's up next, and as he's one of my favorite children's authors, I'm happily expectant.
P.S. While you're waiting for book two--read "I Want to Go Home" by Gordon Korman. (If you can find a copy--it's out of print.) Absolutely hysterical book that Mr. J read aloud to a captivated audience in his sixth grade classroom when I had him.