MS Grades 5-8 Rating: 4
Tim Shoemaker presents a new action-adventure series for middle school readers. The Code of Silence series follows three eighth grade friends who learn that their choices have consequences, and the depth of their friendships are affected by these choices.
In Code of Silence, the three friends–Cooper, Hiro, and Gordy–witness a robbery that leaves a victim in a coma. After being seen by the criminals, Cooper makes the friends promise to keep quiet because the criminals might be crooked cops, and telling the truth could get them killed. When is it right to lie? What happens when the truth could be harmful to you and your friends? Trapped in a “code of silence,” the three friends face these decisions, knowing each choice has its price.
In Back Before Dark, the three friends return with a new friend, Lunk. As they take a detour through a park, Gordy is abducted before their eyes. They race against the clock to help the police discover Gordy’s whereabouts and to rescue him. Meanwhile Cooper develops a dangerous plan. He doesn’t give up even when others begin to do so. He puts himself in danger to rescue his cousin and friend, Gordy. Will his plan work? Or will both boys be lost to their families? Will the darkness swallow them both?
In Below the Surface, the four friends are spending the summer at Lake Geneva, trying to forget their previous harrowing adventures. They alert the authorities when they witness a possible murder, but the evidence is circumstantial. Only the murderer knows what they may have seen. He tries to scare them into silence by feeding their own fears. Each deals with the fear that he tries to hide, the one that appears just “below the surface.” Will fear keep them from chasing down the truth and protecting one another’s back? Or will they overcome their fear in time to protect their friends?
In Code of Silence, Shoemaker advises kids, without preaching, to consider the impact of lying and why we do it. Then, in Back Before Dark, he addresses how to avoid and respond to abduction. Finally, in Below the Surface, Shoemaker discusses good and bad fear. With the discussion questions and these sections, the series makes a good choice for middle school book clubs.
Tim Shoemaker has written a gritty adventure series with realistic characterization of the kids and the criminals. More than a mystery, each book involves a suspenseful nightmare for the kids. There is violence, but it is not graphic. The faith element is present but not overpowering. Both fit in with the stories. The series will be a welcome addition to a school and public library.
Carol R. Gehringer
Disclaimer: Book reviews are my opinion of books I either purchased or received free of cost from the publisher in exchange for a honest review.
–reprinted with permission, Christian Library Journal, 2014.