This is a cute story about a girl named Jax Malone who received a package on her twelfth birthday from a person she had never heard of. Her mother snatches the package before she can open it and attempts to return it. Of course, Jax’s curiosity is piqued and she MUST find out what is in the box.
She needs the help of her two cousins, Ethan and Tyler. Ethan is not very excited about helping Jax, but he goes along with her ideas in order to keep Jax from trouble. Tyler is a typical teenager who thinks his twelve-year-old brother and cousin are little pests. Ethan and Jax manage to grab the package before it is returned. After they find that the package contains a strange looking box, they try to open it only to discover that they have only ten tries to get in it. They waste three tries before they realize that they have to quit trying until they figured out a strategy. The box tells them how far away they are from the spot they must be in to open it, but nothing else.
Ethan and Jax then enlist Tyler to help them figure out where to go. Tyler is none to happy about his little cousin and brother bothering him while he is trying to develop a video game. But, in order to get rid of them, he tells them what to do.
Tyler explains that the kids must use geometry to figure out where the secret place is in relation to where they are. They know that they need to travel 193 miles to the correct place. Tyler shows them how to calculate where that might be drawing an arc of a circle on a map that equals 193 miles.
They start by guessing the direction to begin and going to the place where the package originated to see if they are closer. When they get there they discover that they are now 206 miles further away. Again using geometry, they draw another circle and notice that the two intersecting points meet in the middle of a lake and in Washington D.C.
The kids trick Tyler into taking them – with their parent’s approval – in his car to Washington. D.C. On the way there, the box is stolen by two elderly people, and all three children embark on an ever-escalating adventure. On their trip, Tyler tells them the legend of Pandora’s box, and they begin to wonder if this box contains trouble. They discover a great-aunt that the two younger children didn’t know they had, and Jax finds out more about her father, whom she had never met. Ethan finds out that he is braver than he had believed himself to be, and Tyler discovers that there is life beyond computer games.
This fast-paced tale will satisfy those readers of adventure and mystery stories. There are no scenes of drinking, smoking or of sex. No unacceptable words appear on the pages. Although the kids do things they shouldn’t (such as breaking into a motel room), they are ever mindful of the consequences of their actions and of their parents’ reactions to those behaviors. I especially liked the fact that they had to use math in order to solve the mystery, and that mythology was introduced to the reader.
I recommend this book for upper elementary and middle school readers. I believe that there may be more stories of Jax, Ethan, and Tyler yet to come. Stay tuned!