From School Library Journal
Grade 5-8 An action-packed adventure involving conspiracy theories, end-of-the-world prophecies, government agents, futuristic technology, and a bit of the supernatural. When Joshua's father dies in a suspicious plane crash in Mexico, the 13-year-old flies across the Atlantic to investigate. Explanatory passages mix neatly into the action, and readers put the pieces together along with Josh, who narrates in the present tense. Background information is clearly explained, and ancient Maya prophecies of world disaster in the year 2012 play a central role. Eventually Joshua discovers a secret society that has remained hidden for centuries. In an appealing twist, the members are not just keepers of ancient traditions they're high-tech geniuses with airplanes so cool they resemble UFOs. The story zips along as Josh survives high-speed chases by car, airplane, and boat along with various threats from spies, agents, witches, and crocodiles. With everything that's going on, there's not much room for character development. Joshua is engaging enough, but his relationships with the two friends who accompany him, the mother he leaves in England, and his newly discovered sister are not especially convincing. Occasional stiff dialogue and plot contrivances are barely noticeable because there are so many intriguing ideas and exciting scenes to keep the pages turning. Josh's quest for an ancient codex reaches a satisfying ending in this first book in the series, and at the same time builds anticipation for further revelations in sequels to come. Steven Engelfried, Wilsonville Public Library, OR
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When Joshua’s archaeologist father dies while searching for a Mayan codex that pertains to the 2012 end-of-times prophecy and his mother takes to her bed, the 13-year-old decides to go to Mexico (with two friends) to find out what happened. That’s the first time readers will have to suspend disbelief, but hardly the last. There’s an intriguing story buried in here, but if an action-propelled tale can have too much action, this one is it. As Joshua comes closer to learning about the link between his family and the missing codex, bullets fly, crocodiles snap, and friends and enemies alike drop, sometimes in ghoulish ways. All the carnage tends to take the focus off the best bits of the book, especially the exact nature of the codex and the ancient civilization that still protects it. Random blog entries are also a disruptive way to incorporate information. On the plus side, the end-of-the-world scenario is hard to resist, and appealing Josh makes a solid hero. His adventures will continue in succeeding books of the Joshua Files. Grades 6-8. --Ilene Cooper
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