Audiobook Review: Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Audiobook Review: Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s LibraryEscape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library by Chris Grabenstein
Narrator: Jesse Bernstein
Length: 6 hrs, 19 mins
Published by Listening Library on January 7, 2014
Genres: Adventure, Humor
Format: Audiobook
Source: Publisher
AmazonThe Book DepositoryAudible
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two-half-stars

Kyle Keeley is the class clown, popular with most kids, (if not the teachers), and an ardent fan of all games: board games, word games, and particularly video games. His hero, Luigi Lemoncello, the most notorious and creative gamemaker in the world, just so happens to be the genius behind the building of the new town library.

Lucky Kyle wins a coveted spot to be one of the first 12 kids in the library for an overnight of fun, food, and lots and lots of games. But when morning comes, the doors remain locked. Kyle and the other winners must solve every clue and every secret puzzle to find the hidden escape route. And the stakes are very high.

In this cross between Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and A Night in the Museum, Agatha Award winner Chris Grabenstein uses rib-tickling humor to create the perfect tale for his quirky characters. Old fans and new readers will become enthralled with the crafty twists and turns of this ultimate library experience.

Hmmm, guys. I don’t really know. Apparently this book has been getting a lot of good buzz, though I’ve missed that. I can’t say that’s not necessarily deserved, and I’m sure it will be a big hit in libraries, for obvious reasons. Despite the fact that it sounds like a book I would love, I’m left with mixed feelings about Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library. Aspects I really enjoyed and it was definitely a fun listen, but I was really bothered by other elements of the book.

What makes this book awesome are all the references. Seriously, there are references to both board games and children’s classics like WHOA in this book. They’re everywhere, and a lot of them are so cleverly done. Also, automatic win for the referenced edition of Trivial Pursuit being the 1981 edition where you have to remember to say USSR or Soviet Union instead of Russia, because that is the best edition.

Also, the love of libraries displayed here is commendable. Mr. Lemoncello’s Library is obviously a total fantasy, because it has everything in the world, but the central tenet of the importance of brick and mortar libraries is something I wholeheartedly support. The novel upholds intelligence and teamwork, and shows that learning can be fun and rewarding. That’s all great stuff. Oh, and the characters are diverse, which yay.

Now, I know that fiction is not self-contained. Novels are inspired by other novels or events or whatever. They aren’t wholly original. Still, for some reason, in Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library, it all felt too derivative to me. The book is so much Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Lemoncello is the secretive genius (only he makes games) and he invites the children to his library, where he shows them awesome things. Then, he (creepily) announces that they are locked in the library and have to play a game to escape, and they drop one at a time. There are references within to Dahl’s classic, so it’s not like this connection wasn’t planned, but it irked me in a way it doesn’t usually. Perhaps because of the way Lemoncello’s opening speech as he let them in was a string of nonsense words, much like Dumbledore’s “nitwick blubber oddment tweak,” only Lemoncello’s ends with “underpants.” It just felt like I’d encountered everything somewhere else before and it was just in slightly changed packaging.

My other issue is how smart these kids all are. Yes, they were chosen with an essay contest, but Kyle’s “essay” certainly wasn’t impressive, and I don’t think the pool was all that large, no more than a few hundred kids. These kids have endless amounts of trivia knowledge. There was one challenge where they had to list four books each by a list of authors and TWO of the kids knew more titles than I did. One of them, sure, but two in this tiny group seems somewhat unlikely. The kids also recognize a whole bunch of authors and James Audubon from their holograms; even if you know what an author wrote, you don’t necessarily know what they look like. Things like this happened so many times, and I was rolling my eyes.

The audiobook did pass the time nicely, and Jesse Bernstein’s a good narrator. Still, I’m not sure that it was the right choice for me. I recommend it to anyone who will be more interested in the trivia and references than they will be bothered by the fact that these kids know all this stuff.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

i never expected to have so much in common

2 responses to “Audiobook Review: Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library”

  1. I definitely know what you mean about the lack of relative creativity. While it’s hard to be truly creative most of the time, I can definitely see what you mean about it sounding too close to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I can definitely see the resemblance from the parallels you drew. But I love libraries, so I’m glad that the library appreciation was well done. Fantastic review, Christina! <33
    Eileen @ Singing and Reading in the Rain recently posted…Let Her Go by PassengerMy Profile

  2. I definitely liked this more than you, but I was into the trivia and the references and the whole competition thing. It actually reminded me more of the Westing Game, for some odd reason.

    Also? I totally do not know what authors look like in real life, at least dead ones. I tend to assume they look like the cover of whatever new book is out cuz you know usually that is their twitter avatar.

    Anyways.
    April Books & Wine recently posted…Brotherhood | AB Westrick | Book ReviewMy Profile

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