THIS is the kind of middle grade novel I love to read. The largest difficulty I encounter in the middle grade novel is that the author feels a need to dumb it down. Or when they try to be clever, they oversell it. The Mysterious Benedict Society was a refreshing change. Stewart is a master of creating clever dialogue that works. The children actually sound like precocious children and the adults sound like adults. The story itself is captivating, and bizarrely relatable barring the espionage and plot to take over the world… The story begins with Reynie, an intelligent orphan, who spends his days being tutored by Miss Perumal. He enters a contest for gifted children and ends up a member of The Mysterious Benedict Society.
Stewart’s writing is creative and his characters are natural. Reynie, Constance, Kate and Sticky each show the fears and insecurities of true children and each has to overcome their own weaknesses and learn to work as a team if they hope to overcome The Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened, the boarding school where they are sent to discover secrets. The novel is diverse enough to interest an adult. Secret codes and messages kept my reading interest. There was also one really enjoyable twist at the end that I didn’t see coming.
So many middle grade novels these days cease to be fun because they deal with ‘themes’. The Mysterious Benedict Society deals with some heavy issues, but in such a way to bring the reader along cheerfully. I found myself rooting for the kids, and pleased to discover there were a few more books in the series. I am not sure what those books will focus on, but I am thrilled to find out.