Today is a good day to review this book. The Mysterious Benedict Society is a book with an intriguing beginning, a suspenseful and funny middle, and a happy end (spoiler, I guess, but it’s also the first book in a series so the I’m sure the happy ending is short-lived). It’s the sort of book you want to read or review during a garbage week like this one.
Reynard Muldoon is an orphan. As the only gifted child at his orphanage, he feels out of place and alone, with no friends other than his tutor, Miss Perumal. One day Miss Perumal sees an ad in the paper asking for “gifted children looking for special opportunities” and encourages Reynard (Reynie) to apply. After undergoing a series of strange tests, he and three other children are invited to work as secret agents for a Mr. Benedict, who explains to them that they need to infiltrate a school where strange and ominous subliminal messages are originating from. Reynie and his three new friends (Kate, Sticky, and my new favorite book character ever, Constance Contraire) pretend to be regular students while searching for the source and the reason behind the strange messages.
This book is so fun. It’s fun in the way that the first Series of Unfortunate Events books was fun, or maybe a book by Roald Dahl. It’s silly and ridiculous, and full of children kicking ass and taking names. Reynie, Sticky, Kate and Constance are a great team, and their strengths complement each other perfectly. I said Constance was a favorite and she is, I love her, but the other three are also all pretty great. There’s a lot of suspense while they’re at the school as I kept worrying they would get caught, but it was a lot of fun, too.
So often in this kind of children’s book, the protagonist has suffered some terrible misfortune–they’re orphaned, or desperately poor, or have terrible wicked parents. The Mysterious Benedict Society checks all these boxes, but it’s also full of adults who are kind and trustworthy, and the friendships between the children feel authentic. Sticky and Kate have especially sad backstories, which were affecting, but they also served as a nice contrast to the happiness and fulfillment the children get out of turning their little foursome into a family. It made the relationships in the book all the more heartwarming.
CBR10 Bingo: And So It Begins