May 3, 2010

Book Review: The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart

The Mysterious Benedict Society
by Trenton Lee Stewart, illustrated by Carson Ellis 
Hardcover: 9780316057776, Little, Brown (Hachette), $17.99
Paperback: 9780316003957, Little, Brown, $6.99

This post was originally published here in March 2008. This version on Afterthoughts... has been edited from the original post.

I just finished a book called The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart.

First of all, great title and great author name. Let's face it, we all judge books by their covers, and I've noticed an astonishing correlation between good book titles, good author names, and good reads. Admittedly this doesn't always ring true, but try it with your favorite books and see if my theory holds up.

So this's been called a science fiction book but I'm a little bit against placing books in a particular categoy. There are so many stereotypes and connotations (both positive and negative) that go into those words and I'd much rather judge a book on its cover than in its classification. Regardless, I thought it might be a good place to start and then I can break down that science fiction box for you and explain why it's just a good read.

What is "science-fiction-y" about this book is the central plot. Someone has been sending subliminal messages through television and radio broadcasts. They are undetectible by most humans, so though people are receiving and reacting to these messages, they're not conscious or aware of that fact. 

Mr. Benedict (the one of the "Mysterious Benedict Society") IS aware. He's a scientific genius (and one of the good guys in the book) who has figured out a way to translate and record these messages. Even though he used to be a well-respected government official, no one will listen to him now because they've all been slowly brainwashed by those subliminal messages.

This is the best part because this is where the kids come in. Certain children have the ability to resist these subliminal messages. They are young enough and value truth enough that their brains automatically do their best to resist the evil messages. Som Mr. Benedict puts together a team of children as secret spies to go into enemy territory and gather as much information as possible about who and what are sending these messages.

real story is how this team of four unlikely child heroes have to work together to solve this mission before they themselves can't resist those messages anymore. All four children have unique talents, but they don't know how to work as a team or even how to be friends.  

This book is packed with adventure (though it's not scary), good laughs (though the children in the book don't always think it's funny), friendship, teamwork, and yes, a few fights. It will keep you engrossed right to the very end with some surprising twists and turns. For instance - why did Kate's dad disappear? Does Sticky's family really not care about him? Why is Constance such a sleepy grouchy baby? Will Reynie ever see Miss Perumal again? How can Mr. Benedict appear to be in two places at once? And how on earth are these 4 kids going to stop THE WHISPERER?

The Mysterious Benedict Society to find out!
Once you've read the first book, don't forget to check out these two sequels:

The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey (book 2)
by Trenton Lee Stewart, illustrated by Diana Sudyka
Hardcover: 9780316057806, Little, Brown, $16.99
Paperback: 9780316036733, Little, Brown, $6.99

The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner's Dilemma (book 3)
by Trenton Lee Stewart, illustrated by Diana Sudyka
Hardcover: 9780316045520, Little, Brown, $16.99

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