The Secret Keepers
By Trenton Lee Stewart
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers; First Edition edition (September 27, 2016)
Reviewed by Sarah Page
When I picked up The Secret Keepers I knew it was going to be a wonderful read, having read one of Trenton Lee Stewart’s previous works (The Mysterious Benedict Society), and was filled anticipation for this new release. After attending a book signing, during which Stewart told us all about his new book, I was even more excited for this story.
It all starts when a young boy named Reuben Pedley, who enjoys exploring and climbing, discovers a strange artifact that holds powers that he could never have imagined. He begins a journey into a world of secrets, espionage, and danger.
Soon Reuben is chased by a villain called the Smoke, a ghostly figure who holds the city under his control. Smoke seemingly knows everything about anything, which is what he uses to keep a grip of the city. He is aided by his henchmen, groups of watchful men called The Directions. Along with his second in command The Councilor, The Smoke controls both city and people, extorting and forcing citizens to live in fear. Not even the police know what to do.
As Reuben begins to learn the artifacts secret, he finds himself hunted at every turn. From his home in the poor district known as the Lower Downs, Reuben begins a journey in search of answers. Watching him navigate through the various events and problems in this book was an entertaining, although sometimes stressful experience. Stewart constructs a world, where, although similar to our own, is still a new and exciting place to discover.
The Secret Keepers is filled with great characters. Reuben is an engaging protagonist who, while he does spend a lot of time alone in the story, he also has good internal thoughts and dialogue. He is clever, which is one of my favorite traits in a protagonist. He is also quite the loner. His only friend, so to speak, is his own mother, who he loves dearly. She works two jobs and is not at home enough to know much about Reuben’s life. The supporting cast was excellent as well, from an old lady in a clock repair shop, to the strange Meyer family who live outside of New Umbra.
An interesting theme of this book was secrecy verses honesty. The Meyers, a family who are held up in the story as paragons of honesty and trustworthiness are in fact the possessors of a secret that has been passed down from generation to generation. But, after all, who better to keep a secret then people like them? Reuben, on the other hand, is used to keeping secrets, as he hides most of his exploits from his own mother, his only relative.
The great thing about Stewart’s books is that it’s less of a case of brains over brawn. It’s a duel of wits. Each of the characters is forced to think their way out of a problem. It isn’t just a story of a young protagonist verses an adult villain. They are stories about children who use their intellect to defeat a strange and of course, intelligent opponent.
SARAH PAGE is a rising junior in high school and an ardent reader who enjoys all literary genres. She plays cello with the Triangle Youth Symphony in Raleigh, N.C.