“‘Do you like television?’
This certainly was not the sort of question Reynie had expected. It was only a question of preference. Anyway of course he liked to watch television – everybody liked to watch television. As he started to mark down the answer, however, Reynie hesitated. Well, did he really?” (The Mysterious Benedict Society, Trenton Lee Stewart)
The very reason I love young adult fiction is also my greatest criticism of it: every good series has the habit of sweeping up one’s imagination and not depositing it until the last sentence of the final page. This addicting feeling is what keeps me coming back, and simultaneously what makes me hesitate before reading the next book in line. When I have a chance to come up for air, I cringe inwardly whenever a YA chronicler focuses his or her energy wholly on the main plot. At the same time, this narrow view creates suspense – the character’s lives revolving around the mystery or adventure makes the object seems so much more important and worthy.
Normally, I relish in the beginning of a series more than any other part because the first few chapters before the plot really takes hold are so rich with superfluous details. Those first ten to twenty pages, more than any other, give you an idea of what kind of book you are grappling with. The Mysterious Benedict Society, however, does live up to its name by keeping the mystery alive throughout the book. Although it is possible to predict much of the direct plot line, there are numerous side-mysteries and surprises (especially in the firework-like finale) to entice one’s imagination. Even careful readers will find that Stewart has hidden a number of astonishing facts through scrupulous manipulation of the text.
This book is a lovely return to the ‘old-school’ mystery for young adult readers – it’s just a group of gifted kids solving problems to save the world. No ‘fantasy’ involved.
Beverage: I’m having a bit of trouble thinking of a tea to go with this pro-kids book, why not go with a cup of hot chocolate instead?