Length: 485 pages
Genre: YA fiction
Setting: Stonetown, recent past
Interest: The book had been recommended somewhere for middle readers that enjoyed Harry Potter, so I picked it up when I saw it at the local thrift store. Mr. Curiosity chose it for our read aloud before bed. However, because of its length, I encouraged him to read it to himself in bed. He took it with him one night and didn’t go to sleep until he finished it, so I had to read the rest on my own.
Summary: Reynie Muldoon is an orphan who’s not exactly happy with life in the orphanage. One day, he takes a series of tests that promise special opportunities if he passes. Reynie does pass and he meets three other kids in Mr. Benedict’s house who have also passed the tests – Kate Wetherall, Sticky Washington, and Constance Contrair. Mr. Benedict has gathered the children together so they can enter the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened and try to foil the Director’s plans. Mr. Benedict isn’t exactly sure what the plans are, but he knows Mr. Curtain (the director) is using the Institute to broadcast subliminal messages on TV and radio which are causing general malaise among the public (known as “The Emergency”). The students figure out Mr. Curtain’s plans and by working together and with Mr. Benedict’s other helpers, they are able to destroy the Whisperer before Mr. Curtain implements the final stage of his plan. Mr. Curtain does escape, though, setting up the next story.
Final thoughts: A very enjoyable book that Mr. Curiosity and I both enjoyed. Mr. Curiosity enjoyed it enough to seek out the next two books in the series (The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey and The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner’s Dilemma). I enjoyed all the puzzles the kids had to solve to demonstrate they were capable of being on Mr. Benedict’s team. Mr. Benedict also felt bad he had to put the kids in harm’s way (which so rarely happens in these types of books where the kids are the protagonist and I wonder what all the adults are doing), but it was clearly explained in the story why the kids had to be sent. The protagonists were a good mix of kids and personalities that had to work together in order to succeed. The best reveal at the end was about Constance – I don’t want to spoil it, but it explained so much about her character.
Title comes from: It was the name Constance came up with for their association as they headed to the Institute to spy.
Reading challenges fulfilled: 39/100 in the Read-a-Latte Challenge