The Mysterious Benedict Society: A Very Long Review (with quotes)

I'M BACK WITH AN EXTRAORDINARILY LONG REVIEW. Which also happens to be full of quotes because apparently this book was extremely quotable. (actually spoiler alert: the review is probably about half quotes so that's why it's so long. #sorrynotsorry)

plot summary

Image result for the mysterious benedict society"Are you a gifted child looking for special opportunities?" 

Dozens of children respond to this peculiar ad in the newspaper and are then put through a series of mind-bending tests, which readers take along with them. Only four children-two boys and two girls-succeed. Their challenge: to go on a secret mission that only the most intelligent and inventive children could complete. To accomplish it they will have to go undercover at the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened, where the only rule is that there are no rules. But what they'll find in the hidden underground tunnels of the school is more than your average school supplies. So, if you're gifted, creative, or happen to know Morse Code, they could probably use your help.


my review



In  short, The Mysterious Benedict Society was fantastic. Delightful. Whimsical. It starts off with a series of tests- or puzzles, whichever you prefer. But there’s only a few children who will pass the tests, and those children will be chosen for a dangerous task which basically involves saving the world and all that cool stuff. 

It starts off as the children are taken to the home of a man named Mr. Benedict, who essentially preps them for the task ahead (saving the world XD). Then, the children are sent to the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened (L. I. V. E. Kate, always the optimist, points out that at least it doesn’t say ‘die.’) as spies. There, they have to discover how to foil the dastardly plot of the Institute’s founder while pretending to be good students.

“It sounds like there are no rules here at all,” Sticky said.

“That’s true, George,” Said Jillson. “Virtually none, in fact. You can wear whatever you want, just so long as you have on trousers, shoes, and a shirt. You can bathe as often as you like or not at all, provided you’re clean every day in class. You can eat whatever and whenever you want, so long as it’s during meal hours in the cafeteria. You’re allowed to keep the lights on in your rooms as late as you wish until ten o’ clock each night. And you can go wherever you want around the Institute, so long as you keep to the paths and the yellow-tiled corridors.”

“Actually,” Reynie observed, “those all sound like rules.”


Navigating through the Institute’s tricky lessons, learning the Institute’s ‘lack of rules’, and rising through the ranks to learn the secrets of the Institute is going to prove harder than the children might have expected. 

The Characters (summed up in quotes as best I could) 

MR. BENEDICT: 

“And indeed I have been,” said a voice, and out from behind the desk where he’s been sitting, hidden by the piles of books, appeared a bespectacled, green-eyed man in a green plaid suit. His thick white hair was shaggy and mussed, his nose was rather large and lumpy like a vegetable, and although it was clear he had recently shaved, he appeared to have done so without the benefit of a mirror, for here and there upon his neck and chins were nicks from a razor, and occasional white whiskers he’d missed altogether. This was Mr. Benedict.

REYNIE:

After a few more questions, all of which Reynie felt confident he had answered correctly, he arrived at the test’s final question: “Are you brave?” Just reading the words quickened Reynie’s heart. Was he brave? Bravery had never been required of him, so how could he tell? Finally he gave up trying to decide and simply wrote, “I hope so.”

STICKY:

There had been times in Sticky’s life when an important question would flummox him no matter how well he knew the answer; and times he had run away from his own problems; and times when he’d felt himself paralyzed when action was most needed. He’d never understood this tendency of his- he knew only that he rarely live up to expectation, and for this reason had clung to fiercely to his nickname. Any boy with a name like George Washington must surely have great things expected of him. 

KATE: 

It took Kate Wetherall about three seconds to embrace her new role as a secret agent. While the other children gaped, blinked, and pinched themselves to be sure they weren’t dreaming (actually, Constance pinched Sticky, who yelped and pinched her back)- in short, while the other children were adjusting to the news, Kate was peppering Mr. Benedict with questions: What was their mission to be? Would they need code names? Was it possible to use a somewhat longish code name? 

CONSTANCE:

[from Mr. Benedict] “Now then, where did I leave off? Oh yes, Constance. I take it you didn’t find her answers as amusing as I do. I’m not sure, however- perhaps you laughed while I was sleeping?” He glanced at them hopefully, but was met with blank faces. “I see. Well, perhaps you’ll find this amusing: Instead of answering the questions on the second test, she composed a poem about the absurdity of the test and its rules, particularly about the missing fourth step- which apparently reminded her of donut holes, because these were the topic of a second poem. She is very irritated, it seems, that every donut contains a hole. She feels she is being robbed. I remember a particularly felicitous rhyme between ‘flaky bereft’ and ‘bakery theft.’ Let’s see, where was it? I have it right here…” He began flipping through the test pages.

MILLIGAN:

Before them stood a tall man in a weatherbeaten hat, a weatherbeaten jacket, weatherbeaten trousers, and weatherbeaten boots. His ruddy cheeks where dark with whisker stubble, while his hair (what little peeked from beneath his hat) was yellow as flax. If not for the alertness in his ocean-blue eyes, he would resemble, more than anything, a scarecrow that had come down from its stake. On top of all this, the man’s expression was profoundly sad. All the children noticed this at once.

While this book most definitely is a light-hearted rollick full of spies, humor, and good-natured fun, that’s definitely not all it is. The characters and the events of the plot come together in themes of friendship, bravery, teamwork, and doing the right thing no matter what. It sports a cast of extremely well-developed characters, characters who have fears and weaknesses just like everyone.

He was just turning from the window when he saw a distant flash, a pinprick of light among the trees of the mainland shore. Someone, at last, was signaling a response. Reynie heard his pulse pounding in his ears. He held his breath until the message was completed.

‘Remember the white knight.’

Reynie let out his breath. A long, slow release. He didn’t have to think very hard to know what Mr. Benedict meant by that. Though it seemed so long ago, he well remembered their conversation about the chess problem. The white knight had made a move, changed his mind, and started over.

“And do you believe this was a good move?” Mr. Benedict had asked.

“No, sir.” Reynie had answered.

“Why, then, do you think he made it?”

And Reynie had replied, “Perhaps because he doubted himself.”


They’re not superheroes, they’ve got their doubts. And it’s the villain who’s going to try to play off these fears and doubts, using his machine called the Whisperer, a machine that eases the fears of anyone using it with lies. 

“So it’s just a wonderful illusion!” Martina said. “That explains why the fears always come back later. I’ve always wondered about that- when I’m in the Whisperer they seem to have gone away forever.”

Mr. Curtain laughed. “Sadly, no. The only way fears truly disappear is if you confront them. But who in the world wishes to confront his or her worst fears?”


Mr. Curtain advocates giving in to your fears. Accepting them. Pretending that they aren’t even there. But in the end, the only way the children can defeat Mr. Curtain and the Whisperer is by confronting their own fears. And when faced with the ultimate temptation of giving in to the Whisperer- and having their fears eased, it’s only by working together that the children can hope to bring an end to it. 

The cuffs clasped Reynie’s wrists. The helmet lowered. Reynie closed his eyes, only to see the faces of his friends. He remembered the final question of Mr. Benedict’s first test: Are you brave? Now, at least, Reynie knew the answer. He wasn’t brave. He had only hoped he was.

No one said saving the world would be easy. But Reynie, Kate, Sticky, and Constance are the only ones who can. And although they’re given a chance to turn back, they’re still ready to choose what they know is right. With the help of Mr. Benedict and his motley crew, it’s up to the children to stop the lies for good.


SO WHO'S READ THIS ONE? Who's going to read it? :D


~ Jonathan 

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36 comments:

  1. Fantastic review, Jonathan!! I read this book two or three years ago, but I really want to read it again sometime because I loved it so much. :)

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    1. Well thanks! Haha you totally should. ;)

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  2. I've read this one! In fact, I reread it earlier this year. It's one of those stories that has always captured my heart, and every time I read it, I just love it more. It truly is such a unique and extraordinary concept, very artfully executed. I've read the whole series--the 3rd book wasn't as great as the first two, and of course the first was the best. Constance is literally my spirit animal, she is one of my favorite characters of all literary time haha! I'm glad you rated it 5/5, and your discussion of the characterization is so true! The characterization in this book was so good.
    Glad you enjoyed it!
    ~Grace

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    1. Ah, cool! I totally agree, it's very unique which is one of the things that makes it so great. Haha okay I've got the second on hold at the library but it hasn't come yet. *taps foot impatiently* XP Lol really? That's hilarious. Well thanks, glad you enjoyed my review! :D

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  3. oh gosh. Okay, so I've SEEN this book before. Literally! But hadn't read it. Now I think I will haha then I'll give it to my bros and be like "YOU HAVE TO READ THIS" and then I'll tell you if you had a good review or not ;)

    btw, you're an ESTP. waht.

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    1. Well OF COURSE you have it's famous essentially. XD Yes go do that and you'll totally agree with me trust me. :D

      Hmmm mmm I am!

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  4. This series is the reason my nine-year old brother writes everything in morse code now...

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  5. You read it! You loved it! I am happy :D

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  6. I read this one a long time ago and loved it! All the characters as well as the plot overall was so engaging. Such a great read-- nice review!
    -Vivian

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    1. Yes I totally agree, very engaging. *nods* Thanks! :D

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  7. I've read this book! It's really good. I love your review on it too. :-)

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  8. YAS, YAS, YAS!!!! *excessive fangirling* These books are all so awesome!! Glad to hear you agree with me on this one. ;) I've read the whole series three times now, and it hasn't gotten old yet! Truly magnificent stories that will be enjoyed again and again.

    Oh my, that last sentence sounded weird. Like a commercial or something. Strange. I feel like I should add "-The New York Times" after it or something. XD

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    1. *joins you* XP Yup they totally are. Oh wow really three times? O.O That's actually impressive. XD

      Hehe well you could have I might not have been weirded out. ;P

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  9. Oh. My. Goodness. This is my favorite childhood book! I still enjoy it! I think I've read it 5 times.

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    1. Haha I'm a little bit late to the party. ;) Whoa five times? O.O

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  10. ajkhsdaflkjsdlhf *hugs post* my love for this trilogy is so strong. The first book will forever be my favorite. I read these aloud to my family (we're almost done with the third one, and then we'll read the prequel) and they all love them too. It's such a delightful series! Have you read any of the other books, or just this one? I'm so glad you liked it! It's one of those books that, if I had found it as a child, it would be my childhood XP If that makes sense XP Instead Harry Potter and The Magic Treehouse series are my childhood books. But if I ever have kids someday, I am totally reading this series to them (along with the Septimus Heap series).

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    1. asedsdflkjlj same. except just for the first one because I haven't read the other ones YET. XD I've got the second on hold at the library so *bounces* ooh that's not a bad idea, reading it aloud to the sibs. Ahaha same. xD yeah that makes sense

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  11. I LOVE this book! Read it twice XD

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    1. SAME. Except I haven't read it twice lol

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  12. OH MY SISTER LOVES THESE BOOKS! I never read them, but I read the prequel thing on Mr. Benedict and loved it!

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    1. WELL YOU SHOULD TOTALLY GO READ THE REST OF THE SERIES XD

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  13. Thanks for this review! I've been wavering between wanting to read this book, and not.. And as you've already guessed, I will be reading it now when I have a chance. :)

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    1. Haha yes you totally need to read it, glad I could convince ya! :P

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  14. I enjoyed reading your review. I really want to read this series now.

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  15. Oh, I loved this book! Read it like 4 years ago, but there are some scenes that have just stuck with me. Like that one with Reynie figuring out the squares and rectangle puzzle thingamabob. Oh! Or that final twist with Milligan. Said his name at least a hundred times trying to figure it out :P

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    1. Yeesss same. <3 Ooh yeah I loved that scene it was clever. xD Omw yes I did not see that coming XP

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  16. Oh my gosh, so apparently this is my friends favorite book so I am definitely going to read it soon!! :D

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  17. Hehe. Judging from my two lone comments on my blog, can you tell who's my favorite author? XD
    Anyway, the MBS is so quotable, clever, and timeless! That one of the things I like best about it - the timelessness. Trenton Lee Stewart did a really great job in making the book interesting, but not the candy kind of interesting (okay that was a weird description). When I read the MBS I feel like I'm reading a really good book. (Probably because I am XD)
    ~Megan~
    abarefootgal.wordpress.com

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