The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart. il Carson Ellis.
Little, Brown and Company: Boston, 2007.

Four children are recruited to a secret society through a sequence of tests designed to pinpoint certain abilities. Each child has one particular aptitude: problem solving, retention of facts, bravery, and independence. The four combined make up the perfect team to foil the plans of Mr. Curtain, the head of the Learning Institute for the Very Gifted. They become students to gather information about the hidden agenda of the school and ultimately stop Mr. Curtain.

The testing period is lengthy and interesting. It is surprising how many kids are weeded out, but the tests are trickier than they seem, with things that don't seem like tests thrown in. The results are different for each child and show their different characteristics and personalities.

The plot is somewhat predictable, though the details of the story are unique and engaging. The book is a little long and probably could have used more editing. What I liked about the book is the characters and the unique behavior of each one. Sticky's fear balances out his know-it-all-ness. Reynie comes up with most of the suggestions or plans, but uses the others as sounding boards. Kate and her wonderful bucket full of fun kit, which allows her to do anything. Constance's vocal stubbornness gets them in plenty trouble, but in the end is essential.

This is a book that received a lot of buzz around the internet when it came out. The title is great to start. It is also a rare science fiction book for middle readers, plus a fairly good mystery. As I said, the characters are great. The level is not difficult, but the length could scare some away. It has interesting chapter heads, for those enjoying breaks between chapters.

related-adventure and adventurers, schools, brainwashing and mindwiping, world domination, mysteries, science fiction, spying

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