Audiobook Review: The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart, read by Del Roy

The Mysterious Benedict Society, written by Trenton Lee Stewart and read by Del Roy, is a novel for middle grade and young adult readers. Reynie Muldoon never thought much about himself, but when he sees a newspaper ad asking "Are you a gifted child looking for special opportunities?" he begins an amazing journey. After some unusual tests only two boys and two girls remain to discover just what opportunities await them. those opportunities include a secret mission, undercover at the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened, where the only rule is that there are no rules. Reynie, Kate, Sticky, and Constance are four very different but very gifted children charged with uncovering the secrets of a psuedo-school run by the evil Mr. Curtain and save the world from his 'improvements'.

The Mysterious Benedict Society has a feel that is reminiscent of both Lemony Snicket and Dickens. There is certainly a grim humor, but there is also an underlying sadness about some of the characters, their situations, and the state of society in general. Reynie Muldoon is the main character and voice through the majority of the book, although we do get glimpses into the minds of other characters as well. Reynie is smart and extremely clever with puzzles and logic. Sticky Washington never forgets a single fact that he reads. Kate Wetherall is athletic and carries a bucket full of helpful items wherever it is that she goes. Constance Contraire is tiny, rude, and very stubborn.the tests that they pass to come together are more than a little odd, and make for some of my favorite moments in the entire book.  All four of the children are orphans, which makes them idea for the plans of Mr. Benedict and Mr. Curtain. The children are also very different from each other, but each bring something important to the team, at least that is what Mr. Benedict assures them.   The foray into the Institute is dangerous, and leads the team to discover their own strengths, friendship, and courage.

I loved the fact that each of the children was so different from each other, and that they came together in their own time, in their own ways, without the instant bond that you often see in quest or adventure themed books. The quirky characters, and the odd nature of the puzzles and challenges they face make the story very interesting on a consistent basis. Listening to the audiobook, I had the benefit of not having to stumble over pronunciation, while getting Del Roy's wonderful feeling and inflections throughout the story as a very pleasant bonus. I will admit to getting distracted on occasion (darn you Candy Crush) and having to back track a couple times- but that is no reflection on the book or narrator but on my own inability to stop multitasking for a moment.

I would recommend The Mysterious Benedict Society to middle grade, young adult, and adult readers. The premise is unique, the characters are well written, and the dark humor will keep most readers turning pages (or listening eagerly). I will admit that I enjoyed the first half of the book more than the second, but the book as a whole still is well worth the time.

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