Friday, May 3, 2013

Fiction Friday (16)

Lately I've been reading a lot of Middle Grade novels, and they all seem to be quite thick, which accounts for my decline in book reviews on here. But now with several behind me, I finally have time to reflect on what incredible stories I've had the chance to visit over the past few months. As a mater of fact, since Christmas, I've been on an incredible winning streak when it comes to reading selections. I haven't encountered this kind of succession of brilliance in years, and with a stack of other highly anticipated stories in waiting, I don't expect it to end any time soon. This week I'm sharing with you a 2007 New Times Bestseller. Enjoy.

The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart
(Little Brown, 2007)

Pulled together through unusual circumstances, four orphan children combine their skills to form The Mysterious Benedict Society, and may just possibly save the world why they're at it. That's the driving premise of Trenton Lee Stewart's massive Middle Grade novel. Essentially this is an old fashioned caper story with lots of exciting and dangerous twists.

When a strange form of subliminal brainwashing shows up in Stonetown Harbor, the only person who seems aware of it is the reclusive, yet brilliant, Mr. Benedict. Unable to convince the authorities that these messages are coming from a secretive institute for gifted children, he recruits children of his own to infiltrate the school and stop the devious plan before it's too late. Bringing together a group of outcast orphans, each with their own special skills, their risky plan is set into motion.

The book moves rather slowly at times, but that's only because it is so thorough. We see each of the four children develop a sense of trust with each other and within themselves. I enjoy this type of detailed attention, though others may find it plodding, but if you stick around, you're rewarded with fast-paced concluding action. The one thing that did sort of bother me was how little explanation was offered when it came to the villain's evil invention. It wasn't left completely unexplained, but the science of it didn't seem too thought out either. In this kind of story, I think those details need to be carefully thought out.

All of that is secondary to the main enjoyment of the book, which is watching the friendship of these four great characters grow and seeing them rewarded for all their hard work and hardships. And it's always fun encountering a story where children are able to achieve something that adults could not. All in all, an intelligent and entertaining book. (This is the first book in a trilogy. Books #2 and #3 are already published).

My favorite passage:
Kate nodded, agreeing. She seemed pleasant enough. She had very bright, watery blue eyes, a fair complexion, and rosy cheeks, and was unusually tall and broad-shouldered for a twelve-year-old. (She announced her age right away, for children consider their ages every bit as important as their names....) page 37-38

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