The Secret-Keepers, by Trenton Lee Stewart

Trenton Lee Stewart's The Secret-Keepers features loads of classic children's literature tropes: secret places, magical devices, traps, puzzles. I appreciate what Stewart was going for, but I'm way past the age of his target audience, and this is even more of a kid-specific effort than his previous series.

Stewart's protagonist is Reuben Pedley, a lonely, quiet kid fond of exploring the city. His wandering is limited by his fear of the Smoke, a mysterious, powerful figure who controls the city via groups of thuggish enforcers. Reuben has nearly perfected the art of going unnoticed when he finds an antique watch that gives its wearer a special power—a watch that the Smoke will do anything to acquire.

In yet another example of the baffling nature of children's publishing, Stewart's novel is being targeted at the same audience as Jonathan Stroud's latest effort, The Creeping Shadow*. The two books could not be more different: Stewart has written a fun mystery-adventure with an easily digestible plot and simple, eye-catching illustrations. Stroud's book, in contrast, features adult-level characterization, world-building, and plot structure, and—oh, yeah—a subplot about a neighbor-cooking cannibal. The fact that these two books are going to be found side-by-side at your local bookstore, aimed at the same preteen readers, absolutely blows my mind.

*Actually, Amazon listed The Secret-Keepers as being aimed at slightly older kids (10- to 13-year-olds) than the 8-to-12 age range for The Creeping Shadow. In a word: INSANITY.
Posted by: Julianka


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