The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I was pleasantly surprised at how good this book was, especially since I'd never heard of it until this summer. While it may be classified for tweens and teens, I thoroughly enjoyed the story, and I felt the author was consistent and engaging enough for adults.
The book begins with protagonist Reynie Muldoon, an orphan, being taken to an audition of sorts in response to an advertisement that asks, "Are you a gifted child looking for special opportunities?". He is put through a series of tests, puzzles, mazes, and more and is selected, along with three other children, for a special mission. The other students are George "Sticky" Washington, Kate Wetherall, and Constance Contraire (who is very contrary).
Their special mission is to work for Mr. Benedict to find out what is going on at the Learning Institute of the Very Enlightened (L.I.V.E.) which is run by the evil genius Ledroptha Curtain, who we later learn is Mr. Benedict's long-lost twin brother. Curtain is sending out cryptic messages in preparation for "The Improvement." The Institute is located on Nomansan Island. Get it? No man's an island? I loved the puns in this book!
The Society infiltrates L.I.V.E. and learns what is happening at the school. They communicate with Mr. Benedict and his agents on the mainland via Morse Code with messages that are more like puzzles. Will the four children be able to stop Curtain's evil plan? Read and find out!
This book occasionally reminded me of A Series of Unfortunate Events, particularly the character Reynie who is similar to Krauss. It has a similar tone, although less sad, and a similar theme, with children outsmarting the evil adults. But... it is its own book. Despite the similarities, it is clearly a unique adventure that is sure to entertain any reader!
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