- Publisher: Outskirts Press (August 30, 2023)
- Language: English
- Paperback: 232 pages
- ISBN-10: 1977262945
- ISBN-13: 978-1977262943
- Genre: Teen & Young Adult Coming of Age Fiction
The BookViral Review:
A wonderfully wholehearted tale, The Lunch Money Treasure is an affectionate story of love and forgiveness, and the intricacies, complications and adventures of youth.
It’s the tail end of summer camp and Smoochie, a sixth grader, finds herself caught up in an impossible romantic mystery as she listens avidly to her camp counsellor, Mr. Cavanaugh. With her imagination captured just as romantic feelings are awakening in her own young life, she is hooked and finds herself following the only clue to the long-buried ‘lunch money’ treasure, that of the triple square.
Gary Rivera displays an outstanding perception of juvenile feelings, as Smoochie spreads the fledgling wings of adolescence, whilst convincingly capturing the watchful eyes of her parents and older brother, B, as they support her in her growth. Immersing his reader in a retro world of yesteryear, Rivera pitches the atmosphere just right, capturing the simplicity and last vestiges of a more innocent time. Rivera’s commentary is as accurate as it is nostalgic, with fascinating attention to detail as he re-creates a time before mobile phones and computers, where blackboards and paper displays were the order of the day, and kids were kids.
The mystery leads Smoochie and her friend Iris on an exciting and sometimes hilarious adventure, as they scale insurmountable odds in their quest. With her own budding romance playing out in the background, Smoochie remains single-minded until the end, her only goal to allow another two romantics to start over just as her own is beginning.
Framing his story cleverly against a backdrop of lessons, teachers and after-school clubs, Rivera creates an immersive and believable world for his well-crafted protagonist and her sidekick, Iris. Between the hustle and bustle of school life and budding relationships, they remain single-minded in their quest, which despite culminating in the exciting discovery of the buried treasure, leaves questions about the identity of the two original sweethearts.
Giving one tantalising clue right at the beginning of his story, Rivera foreshadows the unexpected and turns accepted ideas about bullies on its head, with a reveal not even deduced by the young sherlock herself, bringing the whole affair much closer to Smoochie’s world than she ever imagined.
Whilst encapsulating all the exhilarating elements of their venture, and a trail of clues cleverly solved by education which in itself appeals to the active minds of his younger readers, Rivera nevertheless leaves his young protagonist on a cliff-hanger as the identity of the two mysterious sweethearts remains a mystery to all but the reader and the two lovers themselves. Leaving the reader ripe for book two, The Lunch Money Treasure is a recommended read.