“The Mysterious Benedict Society (The Mysterious Benedict Society #1)” by Trenton Lee Stewart
Genre: Middle Grade Fiction, Mystery
Summary from Goodreads:
“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 new found friendship at stake, will they be able to pass the most important test of all?
Welcome to the Mysterious Benedict Society.
I’m a sucker for books that have special schools (or other places) for special kids. I got a twofer with this book! First off we have the Mysterious Benedict Society. It’s a group of select children who act as spies for Mr. Benedict. That in and of itself is pretty cool. I know I haven’t read too many spy MG books. Then there’s the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened. It’s a ‘special’ place. ;) Wink, wink. Basically it’s a school where orphans and other children are kidnapped and brought there to carry out Mr. Curtain’s evil plan. I thought it was a nice change to have an institute that’s bad and not a place you’d fantasize about going to.
All the spy/secret agent stuff was interesting but there was SO much infodumping. It was ridiculous. The beginning of the book was the worst. MG books shouldn’t be too hard to grasp but I found myself reading passages and just saying “huh?” It lightens up for the rest of the book but it still makes for pretty dense reading. I also found the book to be unnecessarily long. I don’t mind long books but the story at least needs to be moving quickly along.
The characters were likable enough. They formed a good team and you could see why they were chosen. They worked perfectly with each other. Their personalities came through and you got a decent picture of who they are. Despite that, I never totally clicked with any of them.
The bottom line? It was an enjoyable story but I didn’t like it enough to boot the sequels high up on my TBR list.