Friday, January 17, 2014

The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart

   Anyone who has the audacity to suggest that I have a weakness for children's literature is absolutely right. 

   It's kind of odd, actually; people with a naturally critical nature such as myself can easily find loads of heaping, debilitating errors and nuances in children's books that could be considered unacceptable and irritating in any other type of fiction. And I'm constantly caught between wanting to rate children's literature on a separate scale and wanting to just put it up there with every other book because it deserves as much, but in the end, you really do need to take into consideration the level that these books were written at. So I suppose it's because of that sort of subconscious acknowledgment that I usually find myself enjoying children's books with redundant or oversimplified plot devices that I would normally find intensely obnoxious in young adult or adult works.

  Mm, basically, I'm very forgiving when it comes to children's books, but that's actually quite unnecessary to mention at the moment, because THE MYSTERIOUS BENEDICT SOCIETY proved to not only be whimsical and adorable, but unusually sophisticated.

   The gorgeous cover work is what bought me into this book in the first place, of course. I mean, look at it. Just look at it. 

   Oftentimes, I'll find myself being disappointed by the contents found in between two slices of beautiful cover art, but no, I wasn't at all disappointed. I really do detest comparing books to one another, but the feel and tone are reminiscent of the ever-beloved Harry Potter series, even though the rest of the book is completely different. 

   It's a story about four orphans who are called in to take a mysterious test under mysterious circumstances. Of many, these four are chosen to work for a man named Mr. Benedict and function as undercover agents at the Institute, a private school with no rules run by the diabolical Mr. Curtain. Hijinks and madcaps ensue, but the end result is one of those cheesy, feel good moments that you can't help but love. 

   THE MYSTERIOUS BENEDICT SOCIETY is just the kind of book that you read, and then immediately resolve that you'll have your children read one day. Even if you never plan on having any children. It's just one of those wholesome, quirky stories that you legitimately feel have every right being in a child's hands. {Although I suppose for those who are used to the thrill factor of more mature books, it could be a teensy bit slow.} And, despite its general innocence and sweet do-goodiness, there's some dark crap in here. The villain's a megalomaniacal sociopath??? Some of the kids have serious parental/abandonment issues?? Also, plot twists. Definitely some OOOH DANG moments in there.

   I've put off this review for way too long, and I've already forgotten everything I was going to say, but overall, this is just a really freakin' cute book. It's fast, it's fun, the ending is happy-yet-bittersweet, and the characters are just utterly charming. Even if you simply buy it for the sake of having the adorable, whimsical illustrations displayed on your shelf, buy it. {Seriously, it just looks so good up there. All pretty next to my Steinbeck collection.}

   This review probably seems kind of short and sad next to that MASSIVE Cassandra Clare tirade I went on for CITY OF BONES, but hey, there isn't much to say. Read this book with your kids, and I'm sure you'll enjoy it! Unless you're one of those people who thinks that A.A Milne was a Nazi. In which case, I cannot help you.

OVERALL RATING: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆