|Robb's Rambling Reviews||
Deron Hicks is a magician. He has actually conjured up an amazing novel for young adults which actually makes them want to look at tired, old masterpieces of art. (Well, at least that’s how I assume the kiddos would have thought about them before they read Hicks’ book). Set in current day Washington, D.C., Hicks cleverly uses this setting to his, and the reader’s, advantage. As Camille and Art, our protagonists, are chased from through hotels, museums, and restaurants (yes, Art is chased through a Museum), readers are given a front row seat to their predicament through the clever use of QR codes imbedded within the text which allow readers to scan and view many of the important artifacts housed in in Washington D.C. The setting also serves as a mini-guided tour of our nation’s capital, as our heroes describe the places they visit.
As if using an amazing setting and actually embedding technology in the novel weren’t enough, Hicks creates two of the coolest, smartest, and charming characters I’ve met in a long time. Art, a young man with amnesia, found in the National Gallery of Art, and Camille, his emergency foster-mom’s young daughter, make quite the dynamic duo. Speaking from experience, most teenagers and ten year olds don’t particularly get along, let alone make stellar pair of crime solving kids. Camille, the impulsive, know-it-all red head, and Art, the levelheaded, sharp-witted blonde are a tribute to Hicks’ writing. Not only do their personalities complement each other, their skills and talents help push the plot towards its frantic outcome. I actually found myself growing quite fond of the kids, making me almost sad when I turned the last page. Sequel? Please?
What would a story full of bad guys chasing good guys be without a bit of tension? Boring. Not to worry. Hicks has packed The Van Gogh Deception so full of this that at times I almost needed to put the book down and take a deep breath. “I can't wait to get home!” Camille said excitedly. “Unfortunately,” said a voice from across the room, “that's not going to happen anytime soon.” A tall man in a dark gray coat stepped from the shadows and pointed a gun directly at the kids.” See? Tension!
One of my favorite elements of The Van Gogh Deception was the setting of Washington D.C. Growing up on the East Coast, I remember taking the train into D.C. as a child with my family. The train trip itself was exciting, but city itself was magical. The national monuments were covered with a thin layer of fresh snow and the hotels and restaurants were all decorated for Christmas (as in the story itself). And, as I recall, my older sister and I actually got along, which didn’t happen very often (I was a total brat as a kid). That trip was about forty-five years ago and I had almost forgotten about it until Hicks’ novel jogged my memory. Thanks Deron! To say I enjoyed the novel would be an understatement. The two young heroes were so fleshed out, I could imagine them being students of mine. I also was impressed with the way Hicks weaved so much history and art into the novel without making the story dull or boring. With the help of the QR codes and Hicks’ clever and absorbing writing, young readers will actually be learning without having any idea they are!
Far from being a “good vs. bad” novel, The Van Gogh Deception deserves a place on bookcases everywhere. Deron Hicks has outdone himself creating a young adult novel full of amazing characters, a great setting, and so full of tension it leaves you breathless! I’m so sure my kiddos will love it that I’m submitting it for our Battle of the Books list. From evil villains, relatable adults, and dynamic heroes, to a furiously moving plot, to kids concussing adults with exploding cans of Coke, Hicks has a winner on his hands!
Citation: Hicks, D. (2018). The Van Gogh deception. New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.