Book Review: The Mysterious Benedict Society

Title/Author:  The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart

Genre:  Middle Grade, Adventure, Fantasy

Published:  March 7th, 2007 by Little, Brown and Company

Hardcover, 492 pages

How I Got This Book:  Checked it out from my library

Why I Picked It Up?:  I had heard that this book was a fantastic read for middle grade kids, but when a boy I babysat told me he finished it in one night I immediately added it to my TBR list.

Book Jacket Blurb:  “‘Are you a gifted child looking for SPECIAL opportunities?’

When this peculiar ad appears in the newspaper, dozens of children enroll to take a series of mysterious, mind-bending tests. (And you, dear reader, can test your wits right alongside them.)  But in the end just four very special children will succeed.  Their challenge:  to go on a secret mission that only the most intelligent and resourceful children could complete.  To accomplish it they will have to go undercover at the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened, where the only rule is that there are no rules.

As our heroes face physical and mental trials beyond their wildest imaginations, they have no choice but to turn to each other for support.  But with their newfound friendship at stake, will they be able to pass the most important test of all?

Welcome to the Mysterious Benedict Society.”

My Review of this Work:

I love adventures stories.  There is just something about reading a novel where a group of kids heads off into unknown danger to try and save the world from an impending doom.  It’s exciting! It’s invigorating! And thrilling!

The Mysterious Benedict Society opens up with enchanting prose that draws you right in to the life of Reynie Muldoon.  He is off to take a mysterious test–one that is both overly difficult and down-right strange!  And yet somehow, Reynie finds himself the last boy standing…he passed!  The next thing he knows, he and three other kids–Kate, Sticky, and Constance–are whisked away to a house filled with wonderment and secrets.  They meet Mr. Benedict himself, who shares with them how they are the only ones who can stop a madman from destroying the world as we know it through mind poisoning!  And so, they set off on a dangerous adventure to a mystery island to try and stop the evil Mr. Curtain!

As I was first meeting all of these characters, what I really loved was the message that each and every person is unique and strong at something!  As the target audience for this novel are the middle grades (4th-6th), I love that this message is central to the entire story!  To focus on what makes each kid special (as opposed to what makes each kid “different” or “weird”) is an attribute of this book that allows children reading it to escape into a world where, no matter who they are, they could fit in.  And a quality like that really makes this book stand out in my mind.

In terms of the plot and writing style, I thought that the first 150 pages were fantastic!  They were engaging and enchanting, making this magical fantasy world come alive for the reader.  But once they get to the island and are trying to plot their ways of destroying the machine that controls minds, the story gets a little thick and a little repetitive, and I started getting kind of bored.  But the last 150 pages, where the exciting plan is put in motion, were just as engaging and enchanting as the the beginning.  So I really feel like this book could have cut out 75-100 pages of back and forth deliberation and been absolutely perfect.

That being said, you will find nothing but enjoyment in this hefty Middle Grade series opener.  The Mysterious Benedict Society is a great beginning to a long-term story about some pretty special kids.  I am interested to find out what their next adventure will be!

My Bookshelf Rating:

A Middle Shelf Book.

A cute adventure story into a fantastical world.  The kids are all special in different ways, and they have to use their strengths to save the day!  The beginning of this story is enchanting and extremely loveable, but it could probably have done with being about 100 pages shorter.  Nevertheless, this is a great Juvenile series for lovers of Percy Jackson and Harry Potter!

Love and Head Scarves,
Jennifer

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