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A Reader of Fictions: To the Rescue from The Nightmare Before Christmas

A Reader of Fictions

Book Reviews for Just About Every Kind of Book

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

To the Rescue from The Nightmare Before Christmas

The Atomic Weight of Secrets: Or, The Mysterious Arrival of the Men in Black
The Young Inventors Guild, Book 1

Author: Eden Unger Bowditch
Pages: 339
ARC Acquired From: Bancroft Press via NetGalley

Brief Summary:
Jasper and Lucy, Faye, Wallace, and Noah all have three things in common: they're young, brilliant scientists, children to brilliant scientists and unsure where those parents have gotten to. They do not know what has happened or why men in black, dressed in crazy costumes, are watching them and searching through their parents' stuff. At first, they are saddened but not overly concerned; their parents are busy people and both their weekend houses, complete with sweet nannies, and their school, which comes with a delightful teacher, are nice. As time passes and they continue not to get word from their parents, they start planning an escape, so that they can go find and possibly rescue their parents.

Review:
This book reminded me from the first pages of the Mysterious Benedict Society books by Trenton Lee Stewart (which incidentally are quite delightful). Although different in some aspects, they share the group of young people of immeasurable intelligence, all with their own skill to bring to the task at hand. Fans of the Mysterious Benedict Society should read this now! Non-fans should read both!

Every chapter title begins with a title and then an alternative title, just like book does. Part of me thinks that using this device in modern books is a bit pompous, but another part thinks that it's really awesome, so... Anyway, this method does work pretty well, given the historical fiction setting (late nineteenth century). Watch out for the cameo by some historical figures; it was clever and a bit unexpected.

The only weakness of the book is the nebulousness of the forces of evil. Nothing is really resolved or figured out at the end of the novel. Since this is the first in the series, this does not necessarily doom the book. The men in black are figures of menace (maybe?) throughout the book, but only sort of. There is a limit to how menacing people can be while dressed thus:

"Actually, there were two waiting carriages, one driven by a man wearing dark glasses, a black cape, and a bullfighter's hat that appeared to have actual horns coming out of either side, the other by a driver who seemed to be so short that he's have a hard time seeing over the knee guard on the coachman's seat. That said, his hat was so tall it seemed it would stretch higher than the man himself, is they were placed side by side. Like his fluffy jumper and ballooning trousers, the hat was black. His glasses, or rather goggles, were black, too." (58)

The Atomic Weight of Secrets is wonderfully written and a joy to read. It's in stores and libraries now, so look for it! I will be waiting impatiently for book two.

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