After binge-reading Stewart’s Mysterious Benedict Society books this spring, I realized that it had been a while since I had checked to see if Stewart had written anything new. Growing up, it seemed like all my favorite authors were already dead (and thus not writing new books), plus the lack of internet made it a lot more difficult to find out what any still-living authors were up to. I’m still occasionally blown away by how easy it is now to find an author’s entire bibliography.
ANYWAY the point is, Stewart has indeed written another book since the Benedict series – The Secret Keepers is a standalone novel that follows the adventures of Reuben, a 12-year-old boy who lives with his mom in the city of New Umbra. Reuben’s mom works hard to provide for them, but things have been difficult since Reuben’s dad died eleven years ago, and Reuben and his mom are now living in one of the poorer sections of town, the Lower Downs.
Reuben spends his days wandering around (which his mother doesn’t know), teaching himself to be unobtrusive, looking for quiet adventures. On the day our story begins, he makes a discovery: he finds a very strange watch.
While I don’t think that The Secret Keepers was quite as magical as The Mysterious Benedict Society, it was still a very enjoyable read. Reuben, and later Penny and Jack, are great characters – innovative, intelligent, and independent. I loved the way that Reuben and his mom were such close friends – Steward did a really fantastic job with their relationship, which came across as totally believable and very touching.
I felt like there were a few times when the story stumbled a little – a few scenes were rather longer than they needed to be. It also seemed like the immediate friendship between Reuben and the watchmaker was a little odd, just because the watchmaker immediately trusts Reuben and everything he says, and then she becomes the person Reuben keeps turning to for help.
Nonetheless, I was completely engaged in this book and was eager to find out what was going to happen with Reuben and the other Secret Keepers. I really loved the way that this book ended – completely satisfying. All in all, a 4/5 – recommended, especially if, like me, you enjoy reading books from the children’s section from time to time.