Floors 2: 3 Below by Patrick Carman
I love nearly all of the books by Patrick Carman that I have read. His "Atherton" and "Land of Elyon" series will always be two of my favorites. Thus I am very disappointed to say that this is far from being one of my favorite books. Some things just sat wrong with me.
One of the things that bothers me is the treatment of animals. In one case, Carman kind of hand-waves it away by saying that the animal in question has been genetically engineered to be okay with what happens to it (and it certainly does seem to be fine, both physically and psychologically, afterwards). There is another where the animals in question have clearly been changed from their original form, but otherwise seem basically unharmed. However, in the third, the animal seems to be unhurt physically, but clearly seems to me to be psychologically traumatized. This makes me really uncomfortable, and, while no actual animals were traumatized in the making of this book, it should be something that readers should be warned about right up front, particularly if the reader is particularly sensitive.
Now that I've gotten that off my chest, on to the other thing that bothers me. Alfred Hitchcock is quoted as saying that movies should make people believe the impossible but not the implausible. I believe that this statement should apply to all works of fiction. Unfortunately, the implausible happens here, not just once but several times. As the book opens, Leo has owned the Whippet Hotel for a year. And yet none of the adults around Leo have thought about property taxes on the hotel. This is incomprehensible to me. It seems, to me, to be common knowledge that owners of real estate have to pay real estate taxes. In fact, I was always told that the reason buildings are built higher in the centers of cities than the surrounding area is, at least in part, because of the property taxes. The closer you are to the city center, the higher property taxes are; the more expensive property taxes are, the more income you need to have coming in just to keep afloat, so you put in more floors so that you can rent the floors out and and in doing so make the money for the property taxes and still turn a profit. And yet, none of Clarence, Pilar, Mr. Phipps, LilyAnn Pompadore, Theodore Bump, or Captain Rickenbacker (these last three are wealthy (or have been wealthy in the past) and should know a thing or two about finance) ever seem to have thought, "Hey, shouldn't the property taxes have come due at some point in the past year?"
Ms. Sparks uses Leo's delinquency, however unintentional, as a wedge to try to take over the Whippet. In fact, she has spent the last few years worsening the property tax situation by intercepting the attempts of the state to contact Merganzer. Since the property taxes haven't been paid in three years now, the state is about to hold an auction to find someone to take over the property, and somehow Ms. Sparks has gotten the authority to hold the auction herself. And, to add to my difficulty suspending disbelief, Ms. Sparks also manages to get an employee of the Internal Revenue Service, Mr. Karp, named as the boys' guardian, even though their parents, who have just gotten married, are only gone for a one-week honeymoon. And we won't even go into my questions about how Ms. Sparks knew that Pilar and Clarence would be going away at all, since their honeymoon trip was a surprise gift from Merganzer.
The storyline is that Merganzer needs a few things that are at the Whippet and he asks Leo and Remi to get them for him. In order to get these things, the boys will have to go into the basement levels of the Whippet in the duck elevator. There are three basement levels; the first is a jungle, the second, a combination dungeon and mad scientist's laboratory, and the third is known as the "Realm of Gears" for reasons which become obvious when you visit it.
The plot is formulaic in that we know that somehow the boys will end up visiting all three levels of the basement, even though Merganzer tells them that they will only need to visit two of them, and that they will face difficulty in each level. I also knew that Mr. Karp would be important for more than just being assigned to be the boys' highly improbable guardian. There was a 50/50 chance that I would be right about what the outcome would be. I was wrong, though.
Overall, I found "Floors 2: 3 Below" to be flawed, but I still intend to read the third book in the series once it comes out to see where the boys go next.