Review: The Library of Ever by Zeno Alexander

Title: The Library of Ever
Author: Zeno Alexander
Rating: ★★★½
Summary: With her parents off traveling the globe, Lenora is bored, bored, bored—until she discovers a secret doorway into the ultimate library. Mazelike and reality-bending, this library contains all of the universe’s wisdom: every book ever written and every fact ever known––and Lenora is now its newly appointed Fourth Assistant Apprentice Librarian. As she rockets to the stars, travels to a future filled with robots, and faces down a dark nothingness that wants to destroy all knowledge, Lenora will have to test her limits and uncover secrets hidden among its shelves in order to save the library itself.


Note: an eARC of this title was acquired via NetGalley.

Her parents hardly ever brought her here, and Lenora was determined, when she grew up, to go to the library anytime she wanted.

The Library of Ever was cute, but after reading through all of the glowing four and five-star reviews, I’m beginning to think that I was not the target audience for this book. (But I’m okay with that!) With a colorful, eye-catching cover and the word “library” in its title, I was pretty much always going to check out the summary, but reading that it was “an adventure across time and space as a young girl becomes a warrior for the forces of knowledge”? UM YES PLEASE.

At almost 200 pages (of kid-lit sized paper and font), it took me just over an hour to finish—but perhaps that was part of the problem. I approach one-sitting reads much differently than ones which take multiple sessions, and I’m also not used to the pace of kid-lit. A lot of the fiction I read is character driven and, although stuff happens, what I find most interesting is how the characters react to or are changed by those events. Zeno Alexander doesn’t even give his main character Lenora a last name. We know that she’s being babysat by someone she doesn’t particularly like and that she’s annoyed at being told to wait in the car while her babysitter runs into the library, but that’s pretty much it. Her curiosity immediately kick-starts the plot and then the book basically doesn’t stop moving.

For me, this kind of frenetic pace was exhausting. I was in that place while reading where I was really tired but knew that if I just powered through, I could finish––but you can’t read this book and only half pay attention. Alexander so perfectly weaves each chapter with the next that if you’re not careful, you become lost in the maze he’s created. But for others? This kind of story probably feels exciting. Whether Lenora’s adventures are “real” isn’t the point: it’s the confidence she gains, the lessons she learns, the cool and noteworthy facts she uncovers.

Alexander wants his readers to fall in love with books and reading the same way Lenora does, and it saddens me that I wasn’t as wowed by The Library of Ever as other readers. Maybe I’ve let the Forces of Darkness in and lost my kid at heart.

Review: The Shadow Cipher by Laura Ruby

Title: The Shadow Cipher
Author: Laura Ruby
Rating: ★★★★
Summary: The Morningstarr twins arrived in New York with a vision for a magnificent city––towering skyscrapers, dazzling machines, and winding train lines all running on technology no one had ever seen before––but by 1855, they’d disappeared, leaving behind everything except a vast treasure hidden at the end of a puzzle laid into the city itself. In the present day, however, the Old York Cipher has never been solved, and the greatest mystery of the modern world is little more than a tourist attraction. But Tess and Theo Biedermann believe, and when a real estate developer announces that the city has agreed to sell him the five remaining Morningstarr buildings, their likely destruction means the end of a dream long-held by the people of New York. If Tess, Theo, and their neighbor Jaime want to save their home, they have to prove that the Old York Cipher is real. Which means they have to solve it.


I’ve been thinking about Laura Ruby’s The Shadow Cipher a lot since I read it almost a year ago. It’s a thick middle-grade book that I would have absolutely devoured as a tween but also hooked me as an adult who favors grown-up fiction. The cover and plot are intriguing until you start reading and realize it’s also a solidly written and smartly plotted novel. (I know I get to read it now but seriously where was this book when I was twelve.) Yet I made no notes while reading and gave it three stars once I finished. Still, The Shadow Cipher demands my attention. Why?

The plot is propelled into action when a smarmy real estate tycoon buys up the last remaining Morningstarr buildings and, given an eviction notice and the arrival of a mysterious (and conspicuously convenient) never-before-seen letter, two siblings and their neighbor decide to solve the Old York Cipher before it’s (definitely) too late to save both their home and a part of history. But the story itself is so much more than that. It’s a love letter to the very idea of New York City and how that idea can both excite and inspire people who’ve never been there (and also remind natives why they stay). It’s an attempt to make history breathlessly fun and edge-of-your-seat exciting. It’s an empowering tale of family and perseverance and how listening to young people is important; they may think differently than adults, but sometimes that stubbornness and focus is worth exploring.

Perhaps part of my enjoyment of The Shadow Cipher was the low expectations I had to begin with: I started a book with no knowledge of the plot and no commitment to sit down and review it. I could just read, urged solely by a recommendation by someone I knew. Maybe I kept reading because Ruby’s novel reminded me of both National Treasure and The Magicians: history nerds smarter than their peers following clues to a long-rumored treasure? Check. Hints of magic around the corner of a brick building, visible to only those who believe it exists? Also check. Or possibly it’s because its sequel, The Clockwork Ghostfinally has a synopsis and solid release date. (!!!)

Or maybe, simply, The Shadow Cipher was a good book, and I really liked it. Maybe you will, too.