(Note: While this review will not contain spoilers for This Isn't What It Looks Like, it may inadvertently reveal plot surprises from earlier books. As always, I recommend reading books in a series in order.)
If I haven't convinced you by now that reading Pseudonymous Bosch's "secret" series is dangerous for one's health, check this out: When This Isn't What It Looks Like begins, Cass is in a coma. A coma! True, it's self-induced, but still ... she never would have eaten the chocolate in the first place if it wasn't for that most vile of organizations, the Midnight Sun. So, consider this your warning - these books really are dangerous. Don't believe me? Read on and see for yourself what kind of danger follows when innocents dare to tango with the white-gloved ones.
As our story begins, Cass is lying in a hospital bed, lost to the real world. Try as they might, no one can wake her, not her mother, not her grandfathers, not even her best friend, Max-Ernest. Despite all their attempts, she sleeps on. And dreams. At least she seems to be wandering in a dream world - her surroundings are so surreal they can't be real real. Can they? The more Cass explores the medieval world she's somehow landed in, the more she's convinced that the chocolate she swallowed actually worked, sending her back in time to explore her own beginning. It's not just the mystery of her personal history that Cass wants to solve, though; she's also desperate to find a secret. The Secret. The one members of the Midnight Sun will stop at nothing - nothing - to get for themselves. Cass knows she should make herself wake up, but she has to gather information. It's the only way to save herself and her friends in the real world.
Lost without his best friend, Max-Ernest hardly knows how to function. His hands are full enough without adding loneliness and worry to the mix. For one thing, his suddenly lovey-dovey parents have a surprise for him. And then there's a former classmate who shows up out of the blue acting very suspicious. A note written in code confirms his fear - the Midnight Sun is up to something. He needs Cass' help, but he can't rouse her. Will his friend be stuck in a coma forever? Is Max-Ernest clever enough to stop the evildoers on his own? Or will the Midnight Sun triumph at last?
While This Isn't What It Looks Like isn't my favorite book in Bosch's fun (I mean, dangerous) series, it's still a spirited (I mean, perilous) romp that's clever (conniving?), silly (sinister?), and a whole lot of fun (there's that word again - it's not fun, it's dangerous). For your own good, you should probably stay far, far away from this series (the Midnight Sun has excellent spies, one of whom could be posing as your friendly neighborhood bookseller), but I can't because, seriously, it's as addicting as sweet, creamy chocolate, which just happens to be P.B.'s favorite food. Coincidence? I think not.
(Readalikes: the other books in the Secret series; A Series of Unfortunate Events series by Lemony Snicket)
If this were a movie, it would be rated: PG for intense situations
To the FTC, with love: I received a copy of This Isn't What It Looks Like from Hachette/Little, Brown Books for Young Readers at the request of P.B. himself. Thank you!