I know I'm wildly inconsistent as far as warning you about spoilers, but I want to discuss some of the "secrets" of this book, so if you want to find out what's so mysterious about Benedict for yourself, you might want to skip this post.
|Not THAT mysterious Benedict! (I crack myself up)|
I liked the four members of the Society, and I thought the book did a good job of highlighting their various strengths without being too tidy about the diversity factor. I did not guess Constance's secret strength until it was revealed at the very end. The children's sad backgrounds were well-done too, I thought, and when Kate was reunited with her father I may have been a little choked up.
There was a lot about the book that felt sort of homey and classic to me; surely the "adults don't pay attention to kids or give them their due" business is about the hoariest chestnut in the box (or wherever hoary chestnuts would hang out). When I was a kid, I got to join Gifted classes (when I attended schools that had them), and our Weekly Readers always featured kids who'd done amazing things and got to meet the president or whatever. The 90s were really into celebrating overachieving kids; so much so that I actually thought I was sort of a slacker because I wasn't on track to graduate college at 16. So, personally, the idea that all adults are dumb clods who don't pay attention to kids never rang true with me; but apparently it's still going strong.
Going a little further down the "I'm an old curmudgeon" trail, I was struck by the way much of the dialogue in this book sounds like it was written for a sitcom.
"A canary in a coal mine?" Constance mumbled without looking up.
Sticky failed to notice Reynie's warning look. "Oh yes-- miners used to bring canaries with them to gauge oxygen levels in the mine. If the canary died, they knew the oxygen was running out and they'd better get out of there."
"If the canary died?" Constance repeated.
Sticky looked suddenly regretful.
"That was perhaps an unfortunate comparison," Reynie said.
"Whatever happened to asking?" Sticky said. "Whatever happened to please?"Maybe this particular aspect only struck me because it's been all 19th century, all the time around here lately; but I stand by my reaction that this is rather ironic given that TV is one of the villains of the book.
So overall, I thought the book was fun if decidedly part of the books-for-the-smart-kids genre. But I can't say that I would whole-heartedly recommend it for any child of my acquaintance and that's because of a bewildering moral hole in the center of the story. I feel like an awful bore just writing that sentence but it must be done. I would not buy this book as a gift or recommend it to a child.
|I know what you're thinking, and I do not care|
I have one last minor quibble.
That morning, as they'd said their good-byes over breakfast, Mr Benedict had pointed out that if they said "Binnud Academy" aloud, it would remind them his thoughts were with them always.Okay, I have said "Binnud Academy" aloud about twenty times and I don't get it. It... has... some of the same sounds as "Benedict"? If you hate me for panning this book you are welcome to go ahead and think I'm a moron now. I was also unimpressed by "Ledroptha Curtain" as a villain's name. "Let drop the curtain" is almost painfully clumsy -- the author should have just named him "Percy Glyde". Much more repellant.