I love books that have puzzles in them. I love seeing how characters figure out the clues and get to whatever mysterious thing is at the end. This Scarlett Thomas book has plenty of puzzles, and can even teach you how they work.

Alice works for PopCo, the world’s third largest toy company. Her job is to make kits for kids that relate to spying or code cracking.  She goes to a work retreat, along with other PopCo employees from all over the world. While there, she’s given a new assignment: make a product that will appeal to the market’s hardest target– the teenage girl. 

Alice grew up working on various puzzles, codes, and ciphers. That was what her grandparents did for a living. It’s also why her father left her– he was trying to crack a code that would lead him to treasure. Alice has the key to this treasure, in the form of the locket she always wears. Her grandfather, however, won’t tell her or anyone else how to crack the code. 

While on her retreat, Alice starts receiving coded messages from an unknown correspondent. She doesn’t know why she’s being contacted, but it might have something to do with her necklace and the treasure it leads to. 

This book is part fictional story, part instruction manual for code breaking, and part math textbook. It can be super technical and confusing at times, but it’s also extremely interesting. Codes and ciphers are fascinating, and Alice explains how to solve them on more than one occasion. Her grandparents explain various math concepts and paradoxes. You can actually learn a lot, if you take the time to consider it all. 

Semi-spoiler alert: Alice solves the mystery. And it’s a good one. 


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