The Mysterious St. Benedict Society is the suspenseful and entertaining story of four youngsters – Reynie (unknowing leadership material), Kate (gadget girl with an unusual twist), Sticky (Bookworm/Intelligence Figure), and Constance (the youngest and most stubborn member of the team) – on a quest to save the world. Although it doesn’t appear that way at first, this is actually, in my view, a more heartwarming story demonstrating great morals for young adults. Written in a similar method to A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket, The Mysterious St. Benedict Society is a New York Times Bestseller, and author Trenton Lee Stewart has done an admirable job creating a believable world in which some quite unbelievable things happen. Definitely a must read for those children who loved the Lemony Snicket books, Society, is a bit more mature in some ways, with more interesting, and less obvious, methods of evil infiltrating the story and plot. As we begin T.M.S.B.S (had to shorten the name 😛 ) we meet and learn more about the main character, Reynie. Enter typical sad background details – orphan, lives in a group home, exceptionally bright – but instead of the usual “pulls himself up by his bootstraps,” Reynie actually seems to have it pretty good. Since mastering the high school curriculum at the grand old age of 10, he’s been working with a private tutor, who points out a mysterious advertisement in a newspaper. “ARE YOU A GIFTED CHILD LOOKING FOR SPECIAL OPPORTUNITIES?” it asks. Curious but nervous, Reynie sits through not one, but three rounds of testing, facing challenges both obvious (loaded questions on a test) and hidden (a traitor in the test takers trying to get others to cheat) and eventually coming head to head with the other members of his team. Although they don’t know it yet, this group is about to be thrust into the underground world of espionage and mind control.
While we follow Reynie’s story from the onset, the other characters are slowly followed into the picture – bookworm “Stickie,” talented engineer/secret agent Kate, and the stubborn but loyal Constance. After a quick briefing by the narcoleptic, but caring and kind Mr. Curtain, the children become an intricate part of the effort to defeat a plot to take over the world. The action never fails to stop, and the children build a bond that sees them through the tough times ahead. Although the plot does lag in some places, the action never becomes unbelievable, although fans of the Series of Unfortunate Events will see some parallels in style and actions.
Definitely a must read for the young adult in your life. A good story with team work, adventure, action, and careful planning all involved. A tad on the long side, it’s more upbeat and action-filled than Series of Unfortunate Events, and so I would most likely recommend this book over S.O.U.E. For our ratings, I give The Mysterious Benedict Society an 8/10 for story, character development, and humor.