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The Secret Keepers

Review

The Secret Keepers

written by Trenton Lee Stewart with illustrations by Diana Sudyka

A lonely kid, a mysterious and powerful object, a new friend, and danger around every corner? Sounds like the recipe for many a middle grade novel, doesn’t it? But, these ingredients were mixed together by Trenton Lee Stewart, best known for THE MYSTERIOUS BENEDICT SOCIETY series, so rest assured the result is far from stale. THE SECRET KEEPERS is Stewart’s latest and it’s both heartfelt and fun, and totally engaging.

"THE SECRET KEEPERS is a fine balance of realism and un-believability, stopping just short of actual fantasy and dystopia. This is a hefty book at over 500 pages but Stewart’s pacing is just right."

Eleven year old Reuben Pedley is spending his summer creeping in the alleys, nooks and crannies of his rundown neighborhood in the city of New Umbra. The city is at the mercy of an enigmatic and frightening figure called The Smoke. The Smoke is represented by The Counselor and groups of men known as the Directions who roam the streets extorting money and keeping an eye on all the citizens. Reuben, with his penchant for hiding, however, is also keeping his eye on The Directions. One day Reuben finds himself, after scaling up between two buildings, pulling an old leather pouch from between the bricks on a building ledge. Inside the pouch is a strange and beautiful watch unlike anything Reuben has ever seen. He knows it’s valuable and hopes it is valuable enough to bring him and his mother out of their poverty so he begins to take it to various jewelry shops for estimates. It is then that he realizes that the watch is worth far more, and is far more dangerous, than he could’ve imagined. But it is not until he takes it to Mrs. Genevieve’s repair shop that he learns exactly how powerful and amazing the watch really is, and just how dangerous it is to be in possession of it. Before he knows it, Reuben is hiding out from not just The Directions, but The Smoke himself.

The watch has the power to turn the holder invisible, a power that Reuben believes may benefit him and his mom, but first he has to find a way to safely cash in on it. However, before too long, Reuben realizes that perhaps the best option is to use the watch to overthrow The Smoke. And when he learns why The Smoke is after the watch, he knows that is exactly what he needs to do. In addition to Mrs. Genevieve, Reuben is helped by Penny and Jack Meyers, two siblings who have been raised for just this task. For generations the Meyers family has lived at the Point William Lighthouse, close to New Umbra, protecting a secret and waiting for the arrival of the one who will make the family riddles and mysteries make sense. Penny believes that Reuben is the one they have been waiting for and she, and her older brother Jack, waste no time in helping him defeat The Smoke and deal with the watch. What follows is an adventurous show-down between The Smoke’s obsession and Jack’s clever determination. Battling against The Smoke means Reuben must outwit not only his house of traps, but also come to accept what the two have in common.

THE SECRET KEEPERS is a fine balance of realism and un-believability, stopping just short of actual fantasy and dystopia. The Pedley family’s poverty is quite real and motivates Reuben to take great risks. This is a hefty book at over 500 pages but Stewart’s pacing is just right allowing for both breathless chases and some solid character building. With its evocative illustrations by Diana Sudkya, its diversity of secrets, its examination of friendship, family, and personal strength, THE SECRET KEEPERS is a recommendable novel for all types of readers.

Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman on October 24, 2016

The Secret Keepers
written by Trenton Lee Stewart with illustrations by Diana Sudyka