Goodreads: The Secret Keepers
When Reuben discovers an old watch hidden in the most unlikely of places, he dares to dream that his life could change. With the money he could gain from selling it, he could help his mother return to school and find a better-paying job. But soon Reuben learns that the watch hides a terrible secret and that the shadowy figure who rules the city of New Umbra is actively seeking it. Can Reuben and his friends outwit a man who has never been seen? Or is lights out for Reuben?
Writing a book that would stand up next to The Mysterious Benedict Society was always going to be difficult for Trenton Lee Stewart, but he manages it here with apparent ease. Immediately he welcomes readers into the story in much to the same way he welcomed them into Reynie’s story long ago. We have a boy who is a little unusual, but certainly loving, and definitely about to have the adventure of a lifetime. All he needs now is a team.
Reuben, however, is not a second Reynie. He is a loner, stealthy, keeping to the shadows. And he has a mother whom he loves very much and who works very hard to support him–Stewart does not shy away from addressing poverty and how it can affect a family. His story is different because his main motivations are always how to help and protect his mother. He’s a good kid. And readers are encouraged to root for him.
Reuben’s team will be assembled a little haphazardly. He’s used to working alone and comfortable walking in the shadows. Still, he meets a watchmaker who comes from another country and somehow worked her way from poverty to a modest little shop. He meets a young, redheaded girl who believes in daring and honesty. And he finds himself protected by a man who likes a good fight, but for the right cause. They are a strange crew, but they work. And their diversity of experiences is what makes them strong.
Notably, the team’s experiences really are valuable here. The team has to anticipate and work out problems if they are to succeed in saving the city of New Umbra from a power-hungry man. Have you ever read a book and wondered, “Why didn’t the characters think of this very obvious hole in their plan?” or “Why didn’t the character just do X, Y, and Z?” or even “Why is the author suggesting that this character is smart when he doesn’t have to do all that much?” Well, the characters here are really smart, they really figure stuff out, and they always go for the most obvious solution when they find themselves in trouble. There’s no running forever in a straight line from a boulder they could have escaped by simply turning to the right. Do you know how engaging a story can be when there are real problems and real answers? It’s incredible!
Once again Stewart has presented readers with a fun and complex read, one full of sympathetic characters, high-stakes missions, and just the right dash of humor. Is it too soon to ask him to release another book? What will we all do until he does?