by Trenton Lee Stewart
After Reynie Muldoon responds to an advertisement recruiting “gifted children looking for special opportunities,” he finds himself in a world of mystery and adventure. The 11-year-old orphan is one of four children to complete a series of challenging and creative tasks, and he, Kate, Constance, and Sticky become the Mysterious Benedict Society. After being trained by Mr. Benedict and his assistants, the four travel to an isolated school where children are being trained by a criminal mastermind to participate in his schemes to take over the world. The young investigators need to use their special talents and abilities in order to discover Mr. Curtain’s secrets, and their only chance to defeat him is through working together. Readers will challenge their own abilities as they work with the Society members to solve clues and put together the pieces of Mr. Curtain’s plan. In spite of a variety of coincidences, Stewart’s unusual characters, threatening villains, and dramatic plot twists will grab and hold readers’ attention. Fans of Roald Dahl or Blue Balliett will find a familiar blend of kid power, clues, and adventure in Society, though its length may daunt reluctant or less-secure readers. Underlying themes about the power of media messages and the value of education add to this book’s appeal, and a happy ending with hints of more adventures to come make this first-time author one to remember.
I must say that while I didn’t fall instantly in love with this novel, it had its quirks and interesting plots that kept me reading along until the end. I found this book a great mixture of humor, action/adventure, and mystery. You couldn’t help but wonder about the characters and their strange behaviors.
It’s nice to see a nerdy secret society that still involves peril, but also involves thorough thought. I loved what each of the four members brought to the table and how their skills worked together. I feel like such a teacher/librarian reviewing this, because I’m seeing all these aspects of great bookclubbing for kids with this book.