I first heard of Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan when it was announced as a 2013 Alex Award winner. The Alex Awards are for books written for adults that are deemed to have appeal for teen readers. Since I myself am an adult who works with teens, I like to check out Alex Award books when I can, and when I happened to see the audiobook version of Mr. Penumbra was checked in right before I left on a trip, I decided to check it out. I’m definitely glad I did!
Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore is a story for people who love books, but also for people who love the internet. It’s a book for people who love puzzles, and figuring stuff out. It’s a book for everyone who grew up looking for a secret door into Narnia or waiting for their letter from Hogwarts. It’s the story of Clay Jannon, who lost his graphic designer job and ended up working the night shift at the titular bookstore. The bookstore has very few customers, and Clay can’t understand how it stays in business at all. With his free time he starts poking around and discovers that the bookstore is much more than it appears to be on the surface, and he and his friends get caught up in an exciting international secret society.
This really works as an audiobook because it’s so fast-paced. Also, the book’s author makes a cameo in it as the narrator of the audiobook-within-an-audiobook, which is a fun addition.
I agree with the Alex committee; I think this would be a great book for adults and teens alike. (Note: There is some mild adult language, and a glossed-over description of 2 adults in a relationship. Still, if this were a movie, I personally think it would be PG-13.)