Puzzleheart Book Review- A Charming and Whimsical New Middle-Grade Novel

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My 11 year old self would have been completely and totally enthralled and mesmerized by Puzzleheart. I have forever been drawn to books with magical and mysterious old houses. I still gravitate towards books like that today! Eklund’s Puzzle House, which is at the center of our story, is the ultimate in magical and mysterious old houses. I absolutely adored this book, and I think your Middle-Grade readers will as well. Puzzleheart is a charming and whimsical novel with an incredible setting, loveable characters, exciting and dangerous puzzles, and lots of heart! Let’s chat!

Puzzleheart by Jenn Reese

This book has been on my radar for quite some time. I included it in a recent blog post about New Middle-Grade Books publishing in May and have been dying to get my hands on it since then. So, when I received an email from the publisher asking if I would like a copy to review, I said a very quick YES! Sending my friends a Macmillan Children’s Publishing a huge thank you for sending me this copy!

I absolutely adored everything about this book. I couldn’t put it down and finished it in one day! Author Jenn Reese has created an engaging, exciting, and magical book that your readers are going to love. From the incredible setting, to the puzzles and riddles, to the loveable characters, they have created a book that will draw young readers in and make them excited to read!

Book Synopsis

Puzzleheart is the story of 12 year old Perigee, a non-binary child who loves problem solving. Perigee has devised a plan to try and help their dad out of a slump. Dad’s spirits need lifting and Perigee thinks that a road trip to his childhood home is just the medicine he needs. Perigee is hoping that by reuniting their dad with his estranged mother that it will boost his mood. Perigee might also be looking for an excuse to visit the infamous Puzzle House. Eklund’s Puzzle House is a mysterious bed and breakfast that their grandparents designed and built…but never opened.

Perigee and their Dad arrive at the Puzzle House just ahead of a massive storm and are immediately swept into the world of puzzles and riddles. In fact, they cant even enter the front door without first solving a problem. This is right up Perigee’s alley!

Once inside, Perigee gets to meet their grandma for the first time…who isn’t exactly overly welcoming…and has outlawed all games and riddles…which is pretty strange for someone who lives in a Puzzle House. Perigee also meets a brand new friend named Lily…and her oodles of kittens.

Pretty soon everyone is thrown into a world of mystery and puzzles. Corridors begin shifting, encoded messages are everywhere, and there are even some mysterious paintings. Whether Grandma likes it or not…they are going to have to play these games…because the House won’t take NO for an answer. That’s right…the House…who seems to have a personality all their own…and lots of secrets.

The games begin to get dangerous…staircases begin disappearing…then there is the whole hall of knives situation. Perigee and Lily have to work together to find the heart of the House…if the House doesn’t stop them first.

My Thoughts

This was easily a 5 star read for me. I was captivated by the story from the very first pages. I wish I could have shared this book with my 11 year old self because she would have absolutely been enchanted by it. It was creative, fun, exciting, dark, and full of so much heart. At it’s heart, a lovely story about family.

Author Jenn Reese writes with such vivid imagery that you really do feel transported into the pages of the book. I have several spots marked out with sticky notes because I remember thinking how I felt so many of my senses engaged. I especially loved when we got to visit each of the themed rooms. In the Squirrel Room you hear and feel the sights and sounds of the forest and in The Shark Room you feel like you are on the ocean floor looking up to the surface. It was amazing. They brought the story to life in so many ways!

Something else that really stood out for me was how the book incorporated the topic of mental health, namely depression. Thought it isn’t stated outright through most of the book, you are made aware that Perigee is worried about their Dad and how his mood seems off and he doesn’t seem to be himself. I thought it was a wonderful representation of how depression can look. It was done in a very tender way and added another layer of dimension to the story.

Puzzleheart was the perfect balance of darkness and whimsy and I loved it. The element of danger from the house really kept me engaged. I was so invested and needed to know the answer to the final riddle! Just an all around fabulous Middle-Grade Book!

For More Information

Puzzleheart publishes on May 14th, 2024!

If you have kids that love riddles, games, mysterious houses, and fast paced adventure then definitely keep an eye out for Puzzleheart by Jenn Reese. This would make such a fun read-aloud as well!!!

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