Happy Monday, guys!
What better way to kick-off the week, then with a MMGM for a book that I absolutely loved?
York: The Shadow Cipher is the type of book where I simply don't want to leave the world, and may have to beg mercilessly for the sequel.
MMGM is a feature hosted by the fabulous Shannon Messenger on her blog every week!
Published May 16th 2017 by Walden Pond Press
Format read: Finished copy via Publisher
It was in 1792 that twin architects and engineers Tess and Theodore Morningstarr arrived in New York with a vision for the most complex and magnificent city the world had ever seen: a symphony of towering skyscrapers, the world’s first mass public transportation system winding amongst them, and a dazzling array of buildings and parks, all of which ran on technology no one had ever seen before. Sixty-five years later, they disappeared, but not before giving the city a parting gift: the Old York Cipher. A puzzle laid into the very city they constructed, at the end of which was promised a treasure beyond all imagining. By 2017, however, the puzzle has never been solved, and the greatest mystery of the modern world is considered little more than a tourist attraction.
Tess and Theo Biedermann, twins named for the enigmatic architects, and their friend Jaime Cruz live in a Morningstarr apartment house in Manhattan—but their home is threatened when a real estate developer announces that the city has finally agreed to sell him dozens of original Morningstarr buildings. For millions of people, the sale and likely destruction of the Morningstarrs' vision means the end of the dream of the Old York Cipher. For Tess, Theo, and Jaime, it means the loss of their home. And they decide they’re not going to just stand by while their families are evicted. If they want to save they building, they have to prove that the Old York Cipher is real. And there’s only one way to do that: They have to solve it.
National Book Award finalist Laura Ruby has written a middle grade adventure unlike any other—a visionary epic set in a New York City at once familiar and wholly unexpected.
Such was the case with Laura Ruby's exceptional York: The Shadow Cipher. Ruby has created a fantastic steampunk version of New York, where inventions from the fabled Morningstarr twins, have dominated and ruled the city since 1792. But in 2017, the legacy of the twins - including a cipher, allegedly promising treasures beyond the finder's imagination - have faded from memory. It's not until a chance situation involving the young Biedermann twins and the loss of their home, sets them on a course to proving that the Old York Cipher is real.
It's not that often that I say, "I want to live in this book and never leave," but that's pretty much how I feel about The Shadow Cipher. Ruby has created an extraordinary world, full of inventions and buildings that are designed to make the world operate more effectively, but also with a quirk and charm that reinforce just how wonderful the world can be.
But even in the midst of these marvels, the world is still a capitalist one. Protagonists Tess, Theo and Jaime have to deal with the potential loss of their Morningstarr-created apartment, as a developer seems invested in tearing down their marvelous, historical building, in order to build new ones. Gentrification is a tough issue, and Ruby does a thorough job in explaining the developer's motivations and the larger impact on the city, without necessarily drawing the developer as a cartoon villain.
(Though each and every piece of snark against the developer, will likely be taken in good humor and appreciated by the reader. Especially when some of the snark seems to refer to current events.)
But like any good adventure story, Ruby eventually guides her intrepid young characters into believing that there is a will and a way to save their beloved home. What follows is a madcap tale full of codes, extraordinary inventions, and even some subtle snark about male-only organizations, that will make any intrepid young reader feel grateful that they have fictional heroines who understand their quirks and thirst for knowledge, the way that Tess, Theo and Jaime do. This isn't just an adventure that we're reading; it's one we're living alongside them.
Outside of the adventure aspects of the story, Ruby does a solid job in also acknowledging the many joys that come with knowledge and being well-informed. Theo and Tess especially are purveyors of knowledge, and it's that information that helps the trio move forward in their adventures. It's a nice nod to any reader that may have felt different in their lives, and will be highly appreciated.
All in all, highly, highly recommend, full stop. You cannot miss this one.
About the author:
Laura Ruby is the author of books for adults, teens, and children, including the Printz Award-winning and National Book Award finalist Bone Gap, the Edgar-nominated mystery Lily’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 and on Twitter.