I stumbled upon this book at the library. I guess not literally stumbled, but it was an especially nice surprise to see a book on display while checking out, toss it in our pile, and later enjoy it so thoroughly. The book of which I speak is called The Mysterious Benedict Society, by first time author, Trenton Lee Stewart. The author also has a fun web page for kids and adults alike with an interview and games and other fun stuff.
The story revolves around four gifted children, who answer an ad in the newspaper and must pass a series of tests to be chosen for a secret mission. The tests are allegedly portrayed so that a reader might be able to test themselves as they read along. I did not have any luck with that part; I think one must think like a child or something. Although my 13 year old son shared some of my sentiments regarding the tests. We both felt that not enough information was given for several of them to work.
But regardless of that, the story is exciting, the characters are very colorful and endearing, and there are many twists and turns in the plot. I didn't have it all figured out at any point; and unlike some cliffhanger plots, when looking back later, this story line holds together.
Even after reading the entire thing, a reader turns the page and finds one last mystery yet unsolved. I think the author included information within the story line to be able to solve the final question, but neither Matt not I had any success with it. Jeremy, if you are reading this, you should try to get your hands on this book. You might have the kind of brain for the final puzzle. But no cheating and reading the last page first, anyone.
There was a point at which I became suspicious about the direction the author was taking the readers. A part of the plot involves a bad guy taking over the hearts and minds of humanity through secret messages being kind of beamed into everyone's brains. I thought perhaps the tone of the story would get preachy or too philosophical for how it had started. But really that aspect of the story was just a part of the adventure.
Another thing I liked about this book was the lessons the kids had to learn in order to succeed at their mission. They had to learn to work together to use everyone's strong points, trust each other, and have compassion for the weaknesses each of them struggled with in turn.
All in all the book told a lively tale of suspense and intrigue and at the same time was a beautiful story of childhood friendship.