I enjoyed The Secret of Zoom by Lynne Jonell, but it’s definitely for the younger set. The author’s background is in children’s picture books and early reader. The attractive cartoony cover art caught my eye at once on the shelf and really broadcasts what the story is – a fun adventure that’s not too dangerous. Jonell fills the pages with imagination and a sense of the impossible coming true.
As usual in the juvenile books these days, one of the primary parental figures is missing from the character’s life. Christina Adnoid, our hero, lost her mother when she was just a baby and she’s always been curious about her. Christina has never been satisfied with the story about her mom’s death in a lab explosion.
Since these books like to get up to a fast pace quickly, it doesn’t take long before Christina is involved with the mysterious goings-on at the orphanage near her house. Taft, the young orphan who escapes, changes Christina’s life immediately.
Taft is a good character. I enjoyed him a lot. He’s quirky and quick, and a lot of fun. His skill at math and love for it might seem a little over the top, but his friendship with a mentally and emotionally challenged fellow orphan is great.
I also enjoyed the inventions that Christina and Taft stumble on. This is every inventor kid’s dream. Getting to fly the small airplanes was exciting and cool, and I was sad to see that we didn’t get to see more inventions.
I know that there has to be some goal for the bad guys to get in a novel like this, but the zoom material was just really far-fetched, especially the link to it being activated by perfect singing. That nagged at me for some reason all through the read, but there was enough going on that I was able to push it out of mind for the most part. I dislike plot angles that are wholly imaginary and don’t have a basis in fact. If it’s magic, magic is fine; but this was supposed to be an undiscovered mineral and that bothered me.
The father/daughter relationship seemed strained as well. I know that adults aren’t supposed to carry much weight in a juvenile novel, but I’d expected more from Christina’s dad than just an incessant desire for her to learn to do math well. He just needed some more human qualities for my taste.
There were a couple plot twists that seemed too convenient at times, especially with the music teacher. Also, some parents/young readers may be squeamish about the disposal of the orphans no longer able to work in the mines.
The Secret of Zoom is a good read and fun, but it’s definitely going to appeal to more tame and younger readers who want only a hint of scare and a large dollop of imagination.