The Name of this Book is Secret -- Pseudonymous Bosch
From the prologue:
But let's get something straight: if, despite my warning, you insist on reading the book, you can't hold me responsible for the consequences.
And, make no bones about it, this is a very dangerous book.
No, it won't blow up in your face. Or bite your head off. Or tear you limb from limb.
It probably won't injure you at all. Unless somebody throws it at you, which is a possibility that should never be discounted.
Without giving too much away, The Name of This Book is Secret involves two eleven-year-old sleuths (one survivalist, one aspiring-but-not-very-good stand-up comedian), a pair of antique selling (though they can never bear to sell any, so antique hoarding would be more accurate) grandfathers, a secret room, the magic word, The Symphony of Smells, a magician, at least two mysterious fires, circus life, synesthesia, some shady glove-wearing characters and mint-chip ice cream.
It's an attractive book. The moment I pulled it out of the mailer, the shiny (but not TOO shiny), die cut cover (the hole is small enough, and without angles, so it shouldn't be too much of a pain for booksellers) forced me to sit down and flip through. Then there was the big "Warning: Do not read beyond this page!" page. And full-page illustrations at the beginning of every chapter -- and, speaking of chapters, chapter headings like, "Chapter Eight: The Title of this Chapter is So Alarming I've Decided Not To Include It".
Yes, it could all be described as gimmicky, but it could also be described as fun. It worked on me*. I bumped it to the top of my TBR pile.
You might want to try this one out on kids who are suffering from Series of Unfortunate Events withdrawal. It's significantly longer (I did think that it, like The Mysterious Benedict Society, dragged a bit in the middle), but it also features a snarky narrator who speaks directly to the reader**:
Have you ever been locked in a room hours away from home by people you have every reason to believe are capable of murder or worse?
Neither have I.
Maybe that's why I can write about it without shedding a tear.
I should mention that although narrators like this can certainly be funny (and this one is, quite often), for me, reading them almost always results in a total emotional disconnect from the characters. It definitely happened here.
Most of the Amazon reviewers compare the book to the Harry Potter series, which... doesn't really make any sense. Other than the fact that they're both thick books geared towards tweens, they don't really have anything in common. It did remind me of the books I've already mentioned (Unfortunate Events and Benedict Society), but also a bit of Ellen Raskin's books. (Though the Raskin books are much tighter and, well, just... better.) Though the book is enjoyable, the packaging and the advertising campaign are both more impressive.
If, at the end of the book, it hadn't been completely clear that this is the first in a series, I would have ended the book on a more positive note and I probably would have liked it more overall. But, what with the draggy bits and the added knowledge that it's going to KEEP GOING... my eyeballs started rolling around in my head. It felt like it was put together by a committee of people, and not actually, you know, written.
(That said, the About the Author was really funny.)
It seems that the more I think about it, the grouchier I'm getting. HOWEVER, like I said, I do think it would be worth a try on the Lemony Snicket kids. (Because, heck! I didn't really like the Snicket books either! Crab crab crab crab crab***.)
*Damn shiny covers. My magpie tendencies strike again.
**And who is constantly telling the reader to put the book down and walk away. Oh, and who uses footnotes. A lot.
***At least I made it all the way through this one. I made it through, what? One and a half Snickets?