Monday, September 1, 2008

The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart

Reynard, or Reynie as he prefers to be called, Muldoon is not your average eleven year old boy. First of all he lives in an orphanage where he is constantly teased by all the other children. Then there’s the fact that he’s a genius. He’s so smart that he needs his own tutor, Ms. Perumal, who is really more of a friend to him. It’s because of Ms. Perumal that Reynie happened to be reading the newspaper that held a one-of-a-kind advertisement. “Are You a Gifted Child Looking for Special Opportunities?” Not only does this advertisement catch Reynie’s eye, but those of many young children. All of these children enroll to take several tests consisting of many brain teasers. Out of all the children though, only four succeed, with Reynie being one of the four. The children are all immediately drawn to each other. Not just because of they’re exceptional mental abilities, but also because they are all alone. Reynie, Kate and Constance are all orphans and Sticky has run away from a miserable home life. When they all finish with their tests they are all lead to a mysterious old house where they are introduced to Mr. Benedict. Mr. Benedict is an intriguing and incredibly smart man who has a secret mission for the children that only they can complete. To fulfill their mission the children must go undercover at the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened. The headmaster of the school, Mr. Curtain, is up to no good and it is up to the children to figure out what he is up to and hopefully stop him. It will be no easy feat though as the children will have to wrap their minds around puzzle after puzzle and face challenges that not even their wildest dreams could have ever created. With no choice but to turn to each other, the children embark on a journey that will forever change their lives.

I have heard nothing but good things about this book. Needless to say I had high expectations for it. Overall I really enjoyed the book, except I found that at times it was a bit lacking. First I want to say that the author’s writing style was marvelous. It definitely had the magic feeling that Roald Dahl put into his books that made them so wonderful. There was that extra umph to the book that made it quite enjoyable. Returning again to my reference of Roald Dahl, I felt like the adventure these kids went on was much like the adventure Charlie from, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, went on without the candy! While the book is directed at a more middle grade audience I still found myself enjoying the adventure and solving the riddles along with the children. Now while I felt the characters had personality (especially Kate, who was by far my favorite) I found them to be a little flat. I loved how they were all smart and each contributed in their own way, but it seemed that the author didn’t go that final step to actually breathe life into the characters and make them three dimensional. I also found that in some cases the children acted more like adults which really didn’t suit the book. Moving on to dialogue…it wasn’t all that great. I felt that a lot of it was forced and it just wasn’t coherent. Again the kids tended have an adult attitude which didn’t match the situations they were in. Overall though, I enjoyed the book and think it would be a great book for reluctant readers and middle grade aged kids.


PJ Hoover said...

I've been wanting to read this one, too. I may wait and listen to it on audio with the kids. It sounds like something my son would like, also!

Kimberly J. Smith said...

I listened to it on audio book and enjoyed it, but also felt a couple of sections dragged... overall, the adventure and concept was great, I thought -- certainly entertaining, especially the second half. I think your connection with Roald Dahl on this is right on, it does have that nostalgic sense for me as well.

Mrs. Magoo said...

I've heard about this book! Nice review!


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