Trackers and Trackers: Shantorian, by Patrick Carman

Patrick Carman's Trackers series is simultaneously one step forward and several steps back: it features even more digital bells and whistles than his Skeleton Creek quartet, but it's markedly less readable than his recent novel Floors or his earlier Land of Elyon series.

The Trackers series uses the format of a series of police interviews, interspersed with video evidence that readers can access online. (The video content is transcribed in the books, for those of us too lazy to bother with the website.) Fifteen-year-old technology genius Adam Henderson and his friends Finn, Emily and Lewis see themselves as do-gooders, using their talents for programming and wireless surveillance to solve minor crimes around Seattle. But when an online figure calling itself “The Glyphmaster” challenges them to break a mysterious code, the teenagers stumble into an adventure that requires them to pit themselves an infamous hacker, attempt to rob a bank, and explain their actions to some totally humorless government agents.

I've overheard librarians recommending this series to reluctant readers, and if I was a middle-school kid with a smartphone addiction and a burning hatred of the written word, maybe Carman's gimmicky blend of web videos and brief, punchy text would hold some appeal. As it is, however, I was not impressed. If I wanted to read an action-adventure story blended with online content, I'd read the 39 Clues series.* If I wanted to try my hand at code-breaking, I'd attempt to translate the fairy script in Eoin Colfer's Artemis Fowl books. In addition to offering more interesting settings, more creative conflicts, and vastly deeper characterization than the Trackers books, neither Artemis Fowl nor the 39 Clues series ever made the mistake of assuming that glittery add-ons negated the need to come up with a well-told story. Sadly, the same cannot be said of Mr. Carman.

*Carman contributed a book to the 39 Clues series, by the way. You'd think he would have learned something...

Reviews based on publisher-provided copies.
Posted by: Julianka


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