Shawna Smith, “The Gauntlet: The 39 Clues and Generational Trauma”

The 39 Clues is a multi-platform series of adventure novels published by Scholastic. It follows two siblings, Amy and Dan Cahill, who, at the reading of their  grandmother Grace’s will, find out that they are members of the most powerful and influential family in human history. The source of their family’s power, however, has been lost, and is now hidden around the world in the form of thirty-nine clues. If found, the clues are capable of making whoever assembles them the most powerful person in human history.

In her will, Grace gives Amy, Dan, and several of their distant relatives a choice: they can take a million dollars and walk away, or they can take the first clue. Amy and Dan take the clue and begin a very dangerous competition.

Upon realizing that The 39 Clues series was successful, Scholastic decided to milk it for all it was worth. After the first series concluded, they released four more: Cahills vs. Vespers, Unstoppable, Doublecross, and Superspecial (calling Superspecial a series is a stretch, considering it only consisted of one final book, but I digress). Throughout the next sixteen books, the characters go through more and more trauma, to the point that their mental health is visibly worsening. Despite this, none of them are ever said to have gone to therapy or to have received medication to help improve their mental health. This makes sense in-universe, given that if any of the characters went to a therapist–disclosing that their trauma was caused by a global clue hunt in which their various distant relatives attempted to kill them–they would have been treated for delusions and not whatever mental health problem(s) they actually had. And while they could theoretically get a therapist within the extended family, it would be difficult to trust someone within the family after the amount of trauma they went through. 

As such, I have tried to imagine where the characters might be in 2022 after they’ve healed some. To do so, I have written posts from the characters in the style of how they would address the reader on the old 39 Clues website.

To view the digital content of “The Gauntlet,” click on this hyperlink.