I think that I mentioned early on in the summer that I was hoping to convince Mariam to read The Mysterious Benedict Society with me. I was a bit skeptical that she would make it through, she is still very, very cautious about anything with much dramatic tension or uncomfortable suspense, and I was aware that this book had plenty of both. But it just looked so good. I figured we might as well give it a go, and I'm happy to report that we read all 485 pages and loved each one.
The Mysterious Benedict Society is the first book in a trilogy written by Trenton Lee Stewart. The first installment features a quartet of child geniuses, each chosen by the mysterious and benevolent Mr. Benedict to act as spies in an attempt to bring down an evil mastermind who is using children to deliver subliminal messages to the general population (via television, of course), and thus take control of society. Put like this, it does sound a little intense, and at moments it certainly is. The children are orphans and runaways and there is much discussion of their feelings of lacking a real home and the people that they need. There are kidnappings, bouts of enforced amnesia and the occasional scuffle. And, these are all things which my girl generally loathes in a narrative.
So here is the redemption of this book in her eyes: it is also a story of friendship, loyalty, courage and found family. It is a story in which children are smart, saavy and more than capable of saving the day, with or without the help of the adults around them. Stewart writes convincingly and quite touchingly about the struggle to be brave in the face of seemingly impossible circumstances and the reader is left feeling triumphant when the young heroes prevail with only their wits and their team work to save them. Plus, it has some seriously funny moments.
Of course it is long. The really good books always seem to be, don't they? Which means that it is that much more of a committment to read the rest of the trilogy. Out loud. We will probably be fourteen hundred pages deep by the time we've finished them all. But, having enjoyed this first installment so very much, it will take more than that to keep us away.