Title: The Emperor’s Code
Author: Gordon Korman
Series: 39 Clues (Book #8)
ISBN: 97805450090667
Pages: 190 pages
Publisher/Date: Scholastic Inc., c2010.

He launched himself at her, fists balled, ready to fight. But at the point of attack, he found he couldn’t hit her, couldn’t even yell at her. All he could do was run away.
“Come back!” she cried anxiously.
At last he found words, the only three he could bring himself to utter to the sister he no longer knew. “I hate you!”
He bumped into a tourist focusing a camera, side-stepped, kept on going. Anything to put distance between himself and Amy. (30)

Distance isn’t the only thing that Dan puts between him and his sister Amy after an argument about their parents. After being kidnapped by the Kabras, Dan finds himself at the mercy of Jonah Wizard and his father. Dan is willing to quit the entire race, and he’s left wondering if there’s more to Jonah than meets the eye. Meanwhile, Amy and Nellie (with Saladin in tow) are left wondering if he’s ok, as they race around the Great Wall of China looking for him. What they find instead is the next clue, but will Amy follow it without Dan?

Alright, I’ll admit it, I had some initial skepticism about the series. It seemed like it was being overly hyped by the media in order to drive sales of the books and cards and encourage participation in the online game. But you know what? You can’t help getting wrapped up in the adventure and non-stop action, no matter how improbable these events are in real life. It’s the Amazing Race for adolescence! It’s my not so guilty pleasure.

Gordon Korman does an excellent job keeping the suspense at its highest. Kung-fu fighting (excuse me, wushu), stone armies, the Great Wall of China, and feng shui puzzles are just some of the things Dan and Amy encounter. Readers see more of Jonah Wizard then we have previously, and you’ll probably have some sympathy for the star who was thrust into this race by his family. He certainly doesn’t appear to have had the same choice Amy and Dan did. Nellie’s back story also gets a little more complicated, and suspicions are confirmed but not elaborated. But that’s just one of many questions that have still been left unanswered; Who can Amy and Dan really trust? What do all these clues ultimately combine to make? Who is the man in black? What is Nellie hiding?

On a completely unrelated note, I think it’s ironic that the week I get this book from the library, I also receive my copy of School Library Journal. In it, Gordon Korman writes the article “How I Corrupted America’s Youth” about how people are reacting to his use of the word “hate” in his Weird School Series. And here he is again, having a main character use the hated word. Is it a new goal of his, to include that word in every book he writes now? (I joke, please don’t send me letters.)