Young Adult Novels by Norma Howe
Author of Novels and Stories for Young Adults

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Blue Avenger Cracks the Code

Editor: Marc Aronson

Blue Avenger Cracks the Code
Henry Holt and Company
Blue cracks the code - Paperback

Book Description


Shortly after sixteen-year-old David Schumacher changed his name to Blue Avenger, he began to live the life of a superhero. But now, just as he accomplishes his greatest feat--helping Omaha Nebraska Brown, the love of his life, to meet her long-lost father--everything unravels. Blue is as blue as Blue can be.

But then he finds a cause. Blue, a master at code breaking, sets out to solve the most vexing mystery in all of literature: Who really wrote the plays and sonnets attributed to William Shakespeare?

In this book filled with unusual poems, the sights and sounds of Venice, and the strange effects of moonlight on two teenagers in a gondola, Blue is once again a secret champion of the underdog, modest seeker of truth, and fearless innovator of the unknown.


VOYA - December 2000
This sequel to The Adventures of the (sic) Blue Avenger (Henry Holt, 1999/VOYA June 1999) takes sixteen-year-old David, known as Blue, and his childhood pals, twins Louie and Drusie, to Venice. The closed-door meetings of a Venetian bookstore owner and a mysterious Englishman further pique Blue's interest in the true authorship of Shakespearean works previously discussed by his English teacher. Although Blue does not solve the Old World mystery, he does solve a modern day whodunit involving the whereabouts of childhood puppets upon which a computer game is based. He also proves that Louie created the game, not an unscrupulous software producer. As Blue solves mysteries, Louie falls in love. The reader cannot help but chuckle when love-struck Louie rushes into the bookstore needing money for the water taxi. Blue borrows money from the bookstore owner, using Vixen, Grandma's dog, as collateral. Every ATM in Venice is out of money, and by the time Blue returns, the bookstore is closed. Angela, Louie's girlfriend, saves the day, getting Vixen back just in time for Grandma's return.
    English teachers will love the integration of Shakespeare as well as the offbeat poetry by fictitious authors such as Sam E. "Killer" Haaswipe from "Outstanding Poems from Football's Has-Beens." Readers who met Blue in Howe's first book will grasp readily references to prior experiences. Those who have not will still enjoy Blue's second adventure, but whenever possible, young adults should read the first to appreciate fully David's transition into Blue as well as Howe's quirky sense of humor and unique writing style. Ruth Cox

U.S.NEWS & WORLD REPORT - September 4, 2000
In the second book of the breezy teen series, Blue obsesses about the Earl of Oxford, possible author of Shakespeare's plays. The book recounts his trip to Italy (à la The Merchant of Venice) and offers an absorbing Oxfordian primer.

Publishers Weekly - September 11, 2000
Less philosophical than The Adventures of Blue Avenger, this sequel is just as eccentric and intellectually engaging--and very nearly as much fun. In her breezy, iconoclastic style, Howe begins with a hyperbolic note that brings newcomers up to speed even as it throws down the gauntlet: "Now that we've smoked out the bubble heads and goof-offs who think the highest praise they can give a book is I finished it in one day!--now that we understand each other, we can get on with the adventures at hand." Persuaded by his English teacher that the author of the plays attributed to Shakespeare is instead Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford, Blue quickly sets to work decoding Elizabethan anagrams and ciphers, and starts compiling a Shakespeare Mystery Notebook. A trip with his friends to Venice gives him an unparalleled opportunity to test his detective skills--he overhears a shady antiquarian and a furtive Englishman (possibly someone "dependent of the continued prosperity of a certain multi-billion-dollar tourist industry") discussing a manuscript in which de Vere (who visited Venice in 1575) mentions Verona's Romeo and Guilietta. Howe makes a virtue out of implausibility by demanding readers' ironic laughter: "That (scenario) is beyond comic books! That is pure Hollywood!" While the narrative is uneven in its techniques (e.g., Howe's cross-cutting slows down once Blue is in Venice), the scale is a grand one--here is a comic novel unafraid to challenge its audience. Ages 12-up.

School Library Journal - September 2000
Gr 7 Up--The high school junior/superhero is off and running again in this sequel to The Adventures of Blue Avenger (Holt, 1999). After Blue's successful efforts to reunite his girlfriend, Omaha, with her renegade father end in bitter disappointment, he finds it hard to pin the disillusioned girl down to commit to their relationship. Bored and depressed, the teen turns his energies to a new cause: his English teacher's belief that perhaps Shakespeare was not the true author of all of his works. On a trip to Venice with friends, Blue encounters more problems as his faithfulness to Omaha is put to the test and a seedy bookseller takes advantage of them, but his conviction that Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford, was the true Bard is only strengthened. As the book comes to an end, the many threads of Howe's story come together. The plot development is skillful, the pace fast, and the characters colorful and realistic. The mood is comic, but also tragic, as Blue struggles to find purpose and love. Readers will find romance, mystery, and literary intrigue in this funny book about a boy with many causes.--Barbara Jo McKee, Streetsboro Senior High, OH

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books - October 2000
Such resounding triumphs as Weepless Lemon Meringue Pie and the solution to Oakland, California's Second Amendment problems (The Adventures of Blue Avenger, BCCB 3/99) are hard to follow, and Blue finds himself in an unexpected slump. Moreover his true love, Omaha Nebraska Brown, has had her faith in male fidelity shaken to the core (thanks to Blue's misguided arrangement of a meeting between Omaha and her estranged father) and has left Blue rapidly boiling on the back burner of her affections. But an avenger-worthy intellectual challenge meets Blue where he (like many teens) least expects it--in his English class, where Dr. Wood steps boldly out of the anti-Stratfordist closet and announces to his students that Edward De Vere, Earl of Oxford was most probably the true author of Shakespeare's plays. As readers of Howe's first title well know, however, Destiny toys with us mortals, and everything from the plagiary of a friend's computer game program to a lusty dog's amorous designs of Blue's grandmother's leg will impel or impede his quest for the evidence to vindicate the Oxfordian cause. Howe doesn't knit her many plot strands into quite the awesomely intricate pattern of Blue's first outing, but her narrative voice, dense with irony, ably carries the tale. Again, she shoots her verbal arrows right back at outrageous fortune itself, never at her stout-hearted characters, whom she draws with tender affection. EB

Kirkus Reviews - August 15, 2000
There's a lot of stuff going on in this sequel to The Adventures of Blue Avenger (1999.) Blue himself (né David Schumacher) is suffering from the kind of angst one suffers from when the love his life, the frabjous Omaha Nebraska Brown, withdraws in a funk of her own. Omaha had finally tracked down her errant Dad in Rome (it's a long story), and it wasn't a happy reunion. But Blue has a lot to occupy him: he's hooked back up with grammar-school buddies who reappear in high school classes--the twins Louie and Drusie, and Tuesday--and his English teacher has made a study of the Oxfordians, who believe it was Edward de Vere, not William Shakespeare, who wrote all those plays. The plot involves the Bacon cipher, a four-day trip to Venice by the twins and Blue, a zillion Shakespeare references, a little kissing, e-mail straight and in cipher from Tuesday, and a fair amount of Blue Avenger activity, most notably when a remembered childhood game provides Blue with proof that Louie inspired a popular new computer game. While it doesn't have the lovely pop and sizzle of the first book, its quirky cast inspires continued admiration and affection. Stay tuned. (Fiction. 12+)