April 24, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

York: The Shadow Cipher by Laura Ruby | SLJ Review

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redstarRUBY, Laura. York: The Shadow Cipher. 496p. ebook available. HarperCollins/Walden Pond. May 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062306937.

STAR-MG-Ruby-YorkGr 5-8 –In an alternate present-day New York, three seventh graders embark on a citywide adventure as they attempt to solve a centuries-old cipher in order to save their home. In the mid-19th century, the Morningstarr twins, brilliant inventors who created steampunk-esque technology and iconic architecture that greatly influenced New York, disappeared, leaving a puzzle for the city, known as the Old York Cipher. They bequeathed a large sum of money to their employee, Ms. Ava Oneal, as well as the building that the modern-day Biedermann twins Theo and Tess, along with their friend Jaime Cruz, live in and are trying to save. Ava, an intelligent and mysterious woman, sets in motion the events leading up to the present day. Unsure whom to trust and facing dangers around every corner, Theo, Tess, and Jaime must solve the cipher if they want to save New York as they know it. Ruby’s latest is a high-stakes mystery novel filled with intriguing puzzles, solid world-building, and diverse characters. The Morningstarrs were immigrants to America and funded projects that were beneficial to people of all backgrounds. The wealthy real estate developer who wants to evict people from the Morningstarr apartment buildings is an antithesis to the Morningstarr legacy, which the teens are trying to protect. VERDICT An engaging series opener that will leave readers eagerly awaiting future installments.–Marissa Lieberman, East Orange Public Library, NJ

This review was published in the School Library Journal April 2017 issue.



  1. Connie Heckert says:

    An excellent novel with interesting characters and skillful plotting. Tight, concise writing that weaves questions to keep readers interested and reading. Loved the balance of two male characters and one girl on the seventh grade level with younger Cricket’s point of view to show us the trio at work solving the hundreds years old mystery. The stakes are high with layers of intrigue in the overall mystery. Lots of information on ciphering and cracking codes that will intrigue the readership level. I’d give this novel an A+++