Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Series or Stand Alone: Book One in the Mysterious Benedict Society series
Summary: (from goodreads.com) Dozens of children respond to this peculiar ad in the newspaper and are then put through a series of mind-bending tests, which readers take along with them. Only four children-two boys and two girls-succeed. Their challenge: to go on a secret mission that only the most intelligent and inventive 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. But what they'll find in the hidden underground tunnels of the school is more than your average school supplies. So, if you're gifted, creative, or happen to know Morse Code, they could probably use your help.
As someone who works in the children’s room in a public library, I am often asked about middle grade books. I’ve been making a greater effort to read more middle grade fiction so I can know what I’m recommending.
The Mysterious Benedict Society is about the titular group, comprised of members placed together after a series of tests. Once the four main characters--Reynie, Kate, “Sticky” and Constance--pass the tests, they are sent off to a boarding school without any rules in order to uncover a dastardly scheme.
I enjoyed the idea behind this story--orphans or kids without idea parents coming together with extraordinary but realistic abilities in order to go on a mission for an older benefactor seems like the perfect plotline for a middle grade book. Reynie was an orphan with a penchant for puzzle-solving, Kate was a flexible gymnast, Sticky had a super-photographic memory, and Constance’s rude, disrespectful attitude and lack of fear were useful for going against adversaries. They made a great team and I wanted to know whether or not they would defeat Mr. Curtain’s evil plot for world domination.
However, this book was completely too long for what it was. If it had been 250 pages long, I would have given it an entirely different rating. Once the students enter the boarding school, I found the plot dragging. There were long, unnecessary in-depth explanations of irrelevant things that could have been said in a quicker fashion. It was just too long. I will not be continuing this series.
The Mysterious Benedict Society had a great middle grade concept with its kid agents attempting to go against a force of evil in the world, but it unfortunately took too long to get to the point for me.
Rating: 2.5 - okay.