Thursday, September 15, 2011

Book Review: Middleworld J&P Voelkel

Fourteen-year-old Max Murphy is looking forward to summer vacation in Italy. But at the last minute his parents, the famous archaeologists Frank and Carla Murphy, cancel the trip in favor of a Mayan dig in Central America. Max, furious at being left behind, resigns himself to a summer of video games and boredom. Then he gets a message from his parents and a plane ticket to come join them. He thinks things are looking up, until he actually lands in San Xavier and realizes that his parents are missing. Through Lola, a modern Mayan girl, Max learns that his parents have been sucked into the Mayan underworld. And to make matters even worse, a crazed madman is collecting the Jaguar Stones, extremely powerful Mayan relics, in an attempt to take over the world. Now max and Lola have less than a week to trek through the jungle, rescue Max’s parents, and save the world.

I really wish this series had been around when I was in middle school. It is fast-paced and fun. The black and white illustrations throughout the book are a nice touch, and the Mayan culture glossary in the back of the book was helpful. There are a few spots I felt were over-written and too moralizing, but as a younger reader I doubt I’d notice. The fictional country of San Xavier is realistically described and Max is a believable, if overly dramatic, adolescent boy. I loved Lola. The mystery surrounding her character is a great set-up for future books. I also liked the fact that the “bad guys” have a few redeeming qualities and, in one case, a change of heart. The plot is full of unexpected twists, including an ancient warrior-king returning as a howler monkey, that keep readers guessing. In a series, a cliff-hanger ending is a must, and this one did not disappoint. Middle-schoolers everywhere will be waiting for the next installment.

Book provided by BookDivas

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