Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Cragbridge Hall, Book 1: The Inventor's Secret by Chad Morris

I had a student last year who loved computers, but not reading. He needed to read a fiction book for class and I gave him "Brain Boy" by Tor Seidler that he liked (or he lied and said he liked it to not hurt my feelings). This would have been another book I could have recommended. The mixture of virtual reality combined with history and a dose of action will appeal to many young readers.

Abby and Derick Cragbridge are going to the prestigious Cragbridge Hall founded by their grandfather who invented many high-tech devices on campus that create a virtual learning environment. Learning  means being plunked virtually in historical settings that surround the students. The pirate ship comes into the classroom with realistic fighting and gunshots as Maynard, for example, battles Blackbird. Physical education class means running up a virtual mountain or zoology means using avatars that allow students to be inside the animal experiencing extra appendages like tails or wings. When Abby and Derick's parents and grandfather go missing the two must solve the problem or the world will be changed forever.

Abby is ridiculously unsure of herself, but as an average person amongst a family of geniuses it is understandable she has low self-esteem. Even her twin brother is brainy. Abby knows that she got into Cragbridge because of her grandfather and this causes hard feelings and bullying toward her from other students. I did wonder why Abby didn't go find her brother the first night and anyone who has lived in a dorm knows there are residents and lobby couches that seemed like a more logical resolution versus sleeping on the floor. Her insecurities were so extreme at the start I found her unlikable.

The skeleton of the plot is predictable but the technology used to solve the problems is not, which kept my interest going throughout the pages. It is easy to predict what will happen to the parents and grandfather with their brainy children rescuing them, as well as, knowing Abby's emotional arc will go from insecure to confident. Derick's internal changes I didn't expect and him dealing with his first failure adds nice tension and drama. There are some minor "plot spots" that had me confused either by the transition or unbelievability, but they don't detract from the main events and when I reread them I figured out the meaning.

Carol is an interesting supporting character. A bit over-the-top for me but a funny drama queen who develops a friendship with Abby and her brother. The T-shirt thing-a-ma-jig with Derick was unbelievable, but somewhat funny.  I would have liked to know more about Rafa, the teachers, and a confrontation with the villain, as he is surprisingly absent during the climax. I'm sure he'll show up in a sequel. An entertaining read and nice debut novel.

3 Smileys

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