Publisher's Note:  

"Are you a gifted child looking for special opportunities?"

When this peculiar ad appears in the newspaper, dozens of children enroll to take a series of mysterious, mind-bending tests. (And you, dear reader, can test your wits right alongside them.) But in the end just four very special children will succeed. Their challenge: to go on a secret mission that only the most intelligent and resourceful 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.

As our heroes face physical and mental trials beyond their wildest imaginations, they have no choice but to turn to each other for support. But with their newfound friendship at stake, will they be able to pass the most important test of all?

Welcome to the Mysterious Benedict Society.

The Mysterious Benedict Society

by Trenton Lee Stewart

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Overall Review:  

Eleven-year-old Reynie Muldoon, an orphan, is excited to see the newspaper ad that asks, "ARE YOU A GIFTED CHILD LOOKING FOR SPECIAL OPPORTUNITIES?" He and his tutor agree that he should take the test. But there’s more than one test, and the tests aren't necessarily what they seem.

Reynie and the other children are tested on their helpfulness:  will they do something for the girl who lost her pencil? They’re tested on their honesty:  will they refuse the girl’s offer to help them cheat? They’re tested on their problem-solving skills:  will they figure out how to answer incredibly difficult test questions, how to get through a maze, and other impossible puzzles?

After Reynie and three others pass the tests, they meet Mr. Benedict, a strange but kindly man who asks them to undertake a dangerous and secret mission. Once they all agree, he explains that they must infiltrate a special school on an island and uncover the mastermind who is broadcasting messages from there into people’s heads.

Each of the children’s special skills will be necessary for them to outwit the evil Mr. Curtain who plans to rule the world. There’s Reynie, an insightful leader; there’s Kate, who used to be in the circus and is infinitely resourceful; there’s Sticky who remembers everything he reads; and there’s tiny Constance, stubborn and hard to get along with—her stubbornness will turn out to be just what they need!

The story is clever without feeling contrived; the danger is scary without being terrifying; the ending is satisfying without cutting off the possibility of a sequel or two. (There are now two plus a "prequel" and a book of puzzles.)

The first page of the book introduces Reynie as he's waiting to take a second test. A flashback interrupts the story, but the background information is short. By page 9, the story’s caught up to the point of Reynie’s taking the first test. By page 13, he’s the only one in his group to have passed it, and he’s encountering the girl whose lost her pencil and won’t be able to take the test. The pace picks up even more on page 106 when there’s a break-in at Mr. Benedict’s house and the children only narrowly avoid being kidnapped. From there, the book stays exciting through to the satisfying ending.

Reading Level: 7.8, range 5.9-9.5.

Of interest to boys and girls.

This review has been acquired and adapted from

Content Analysis:  

This review was acquired from on May 15, 2014 and was not completed using Compass Book Ratings’ standardized checklist.  Nevertheless, it contains useful content information which is included here.  The overall number ratings have been approximated based on this information.

Mention that Reynie’s parents died when he was a baby; children told they’ll be “executed” for talking during test—tester says she meant “escorted” out of the building; bodyguard tells about waking up blindfolded, cuffed hand and foot, and not knowing who he is or why he’s there, has chewed his finger and toenails down below the quick; Mr. Benedict thinks bodyguard was secret agent from government; mention that Mr. Benedict’s parents were “killed in a laboratory accident” when he was small, aunt also died; suggestion that someone’s been buried under new plantings; boys at school play game of kicking each other in the shins; boy sent to Waiting Room as punishment, very scared; kids realize school inspector must have inspected Institute and Mr. Curtain kept him there, wiped his memory, realize Mr. Curtain’s done it to lots of other people also; Executive tells Kate he’ll hurt her arm as he takes her to Waiting Room; kids realize Mr. Curtain forcibly brainsweeps people, wiping out their memories; Reynie fears that Sticky will crack under pressure and they may all “go missing”; bodyguard says he’ll die before he lets the kids be harmed, repeated later; mention of butcher shop that produced “gallons of blood,” that drained into ocean, attracting sharks, workers would throw mice to sharks; Mr. Curtain pours boiling water down drain to see if anyone’s at end of drain; Kate thinks she’s going to be killed by shark, imagines it biting her, pulling her down into water; bodyguard has “cuts and bruises on his face”; students at Institute “boo and jeer” as bodyguard is taken by them; Kate fills bucket with water, drops it on head of Executive coming up ladder after her, he falls and knocks down person behind him; Mr. Curtain threatens to put Sticky back in Waiting Room; mention that Constance could fall to her death; Kate fights three Executives, pinches nose, elbows one of them, scrapes another’s leg, lassos one of them, gets knocked down; Executive pulls on rope, pulls Kate another pushes her, third catches her, begins hurting her, threatens her with worse; bodyguard shoots Executives with tranquilizer gun; Mr. Curtain threatens to “crush [kids] like gnats,” says he’s going to kill them; Mr. Curtain was bullied as a child


Mention of Sticky needing to undress to shower.

Mature Subject Matter:  

Death of a parent, crime

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Reviewed By CleanTeenReads
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