The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart

March Mysteries
I have been a mystery fan for all of my life. As a young teen, I devoured Agatha Christie novels. These are all aimed more for teen audiences, and include elements that will appeal to this audience. One is historical fiction, and includes some interesting aspects of life after WWII, one has an online component to continue the mystery, and of course, who could forget vampires?
Reynie may not have what most people consider to be an ideal life. He lives in an orphanage, being an orphan, and gets picked on for being so smart. His only friend is his tutor Miss Perumal, and for that he is very grateful. One day he reads an advertisement in the paper asking for gifted youth to come and take a test. Intrigued by the prospect, Reynie goes to the task with his usual intelligence. Several strange things happen during the course of his multi-level tests, like meeting a girl with green hair who offers him the answers to the test...but he decides to take his chances.

Much to his surprise, he is one of only four children chosen to be on the team! Along with Kate, Constance, and "Sticky" the team meets Mr. Benedict. He's quite the character, suffering from narcolepsy (always falling asleep in the middle of things) especially when he laughs. He always wears green plaid suits, and his genius is responsible for giving the team the chance they now have to stop the impending disaster. Mr. Benedict tells them of the hidden messages being sent out by the aptly named Mr. Curtain. It seems Mr. Curtain has far more sinister intentions than simply running a school for the gifted. It is this school, Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened, that the children must infiltrate to learn what they can about the impending nefarious plan.

The four together are very resourceful, Reynie being a thinking, Sticky is the brains, Kate is the muscle, and Constance...well, Constance is stubborn. After beginning at the new school, the kids are faced with some hard truths. For instance, Mr. Curtain seems to be Mr. Benedict's twin! Using Morse Code, they are able to communicate what they have learned back to Mr. Benedict and his team. They learn how the secret messages are being transmitted by using students, and discover his ultimate evil plan: to become M.A.S.T.E.R., "Minister and Secretary of all The Earth's Regions". It is only through quick thinking, teamwork, and a good amount of luck that the kids are able to avoid danger and detection. Will they be able to stop him in time?

Fantastically whimsical, well written, excellent illustrations by Carter Ellis, and a mystery that will draw in anyone with a quizzical mind. Highly recommended, I can't wait to read the sequels.

*Library Link*

If you liked this, check out:
The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey by Trenton Lee Stewart
The Name of this Book is Secret by Pseudonymous Bosch
Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliett

Stewart, Trenton Lee. (2007). The Mysterious Benedict Society. Little, Brown and Co.: New York, NY.

Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

Ethan's about to start his sophomore year at Stonewall Jackson High School. He's been having some weird dreams, but other than that, he's hardly expecting anything new. Especially someone like Lena. Lena Duchannes (rhymes with rain) is the niece of Macon Ravenwood, the town shut-in. No one has seen him since before Ethan was born. The town is abuzz with gossip. Despite her beauty, just being related to weird old Ravenwood makes her an outsider, and they only treat outsiders one way in Gatlin County. Pretty soon it is clear that the popular girls have it out for Lena, but Ethan's got a connection to her. She's the girl from his dreams, literally.

All those weeks he dreamed of her, never having seen her before, and suddenly here she is! Ethan knows there has to be a connection between them, he is drawn to her. Despite her protests, he continues to pursue a friendship. Slowly but surely they get closer, just as everyone else in the town pushes them farther away. They seem to have a telepathic link, and can communicate without speaking. But even with this intimacy, Lena keeps warning him away. What is her big secret? Not to mention all the weird stuff that happens around her: spontaneously breaking a window at school without touching it; the fact that her uncle's house looks completely different inside every time Ethan visits; even the weather seems to follow Lena's moods...and the visions they both see when they touch the ancient locket...

On her sixteenth birthday, Lena will be Claimed. She is a caster, something more complicated and advanced that what we think of a witchcraft, but similar. She comes from a long line of them, and it seems Ethan is surrounded by this web of magic. His Amma, the housekeeper who has helped raise him, sneaks out to meet Lena's Uncle Macon in the middle of the night. How does Amma even know Mr. Ravenwood?

They must unravel the mystery and keep Lena from going Dark, or there may be more at stake than just Ethan and Lena's relationship. Book #1 of the Caster Series is a sure hit, great for mystery lovers, supernatural lovers, and romance lovers.
"Sixteen moons, sixteen years
Sixteen of your deepest fears
Sixteen times you dreamed my tears
Falling, falling through the years...

It looked like she had been crying all night. She probably had. When I touched her face, I saw it was still striped with tears. I held her in my arms, and we swayed while the song played on.

Sixteen moons, sixteen years
Sound of thunder in your ears
Sixteen miles before she nears
Sixteen seeks what sixteen fears..." (Garcia and Stohl pg. 471,

*Library Link*

If you liked this, check out:
Ruined: A Novel by Paula Morris
Fallen by Lauren Kate
Once a Witch by Carolyn MacCullough

Garcia, Kami and Stohl, Margaret. (2009). Beautiful Creatures. Little, Brown and Company: New York, NY.

The Amanda Project: Invisible I by Melissa Kantor

Who is Amanda Valentino, really? Callie thought she knew, until the day after she disappeared. Amanda made her feel like Callie was her only friend...but it turns out she made Hal and Nia feel that way too. Callie didn't even know that Amanda HAD other friends until all three of them are called into the principal's office. It seems pretty clear that all three of them are surprised that they are not Amanda's sole friend.

After they get over the initial shock, they decide to team up and look for her. It turns out that many of the things they thought they knew about Amanda were lies, like where she lived...but she keeps leaving them clues which make them even more anxious to find her.

Most mysterious of all is the envelope of money that Callie finds, the exact amount needed to make the house payment, and save her house. Since her mom disappeared, Callie's dad has been falling deeper into depression, and she was really worried about losing the house. Where did the money come from? Did Amanda steal it?!

As Callie, Hal, and Nia get closer, they learn what Amanda wanted for them most of all was for them to be friends. They find clues in unlikely places, and even set up a website so other Amanda fans can contribute.

This is one of the first interactive novels that truly incorporates the text into an online experience. Fans can read up on new clues every week, post ideas that may be incorporated into the story line, and submit original writings or drawings for the site's zine. What a great way to keep kids interested in a story! HarperTeen also has plans for 7 more titles after this first book.
"On the paper was a collage of drawings of plans and pieces of plants intertwining and forming a border around a quote written in large, beautifully calligraphed letters, which read: All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing. Underneath, in Amanda's bold script, it said: The quote is from Edmund Burke, but the drawings are all Beatrix Potter's. Like Beatrix (Beatrice, Bellatrix), we warriors fall, but so too do we rise," (Kantor pg. 200, 2009).

*Library Link*

If you liked this, check out:
Confessions of a Not It Girl by Melissa Kantor
Paper Towns by John Green
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart

Kantor, Melissa. (2009). The Amanda Project: Invisible I. HarperTeen: New York, NY.

What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell

Evie can't wait to grow up. She can't wait to be a part of that glamorous world of movie stars smoking cigarettes, and wearing bright red lipstick. She wants to be just like her sophisticated mother, Beverly.

It's right after the war (WWII) is over, and things are starting to get back to normal. Her stepfather Joe is home, and her mother is happy again. They decide to take a trip to Florida, all three of them. They meet a lovely couple, the Graysons, and the five of them are joined by an old war buddy of Joe's, Peter.

Oh, how Evie admires Peter. How she longs for his approval, for him to see her as a woman. She borrows dresses from her mother, starts to style her hair differently, and when the three of them go out-Evie, Peter, and her mother-she knows that it is because it would be improper to go without an escort. She is convinced that she can win Peter over. He gives her hints that he likes her too, but only vague ones.

Mr. Grayson and Joe have reached an agreement, they are going to buy the hotel they are all staying at, and Evie's life will change forever. Until that horrible night when the Graysons are discovered as being Jewish, and kicked out of the hotel. It isn't the first time Evie has witnessed discrimination against Jewish families, but it is the first time it has happened to her friends. It seems that all their plans will fall apart. Even Joe and Bev are fighting, making accusations, she has to get out of there...

She goes to where Peter is staying. He tells her the truth about why he's been hanging around her family. It turns out that Joe did something in the war that wasn't entirely on the up and up, and Peter wants a cut. With the deal with the Graysons falling through, where will the money come from? She and Peter kiss, and things start to get more serious...suddenly, her mother bursts in and brings her home.

The day they are set to leave, Peter, Joe and Bev take a trip out on a boat, in a storm. Only Joe and Bev make it back. Could her mother and stepfather be involved in something even more sinister? Great mystery, won the National Book Award in 2009 for outstanding YA fiction.

"'Tell me what you did. Tell me,' I said, very slowly, because just then I realized it, the whole obvious truth of it right in front of my face, 'what you and Joe did. Together. What happened? You say I'm good. I don't need good. I need to know things. I need to know why Joe drinks so much, and why he hates you. Why he wants to move here. Why he wants to get away," (Blundell pg. 144, 2008).
*Library Link*

If you liked this, check out:
Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson
Impossible by Nancy Werlin
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Blundell, Judy. (2008). What I Saw and How I Lied. Scholastic Press: New York, NY.

The Reformed Vampire Support Group by Catherine Jinks

Nina is far from what we think of when we imagine a vampire. She is frail, sickly, nauseous, and reformed. She has never bitten a person, in her entire life as a vampire. In fact, her support group is dedicated to just that, making sure that there are no unreformed vampires out there on the loose, infecting people. The support group is made up of other similiarly affected members, all older than Nina, and all frankly sick of rehashing old problems every week.

Something happens to Casimir, the vampire who bit nearly all of them, and suddenly their insulated world is turned upside down. Is there a vampire slayer out there, trying to take them out one by one? With the help of their sponsor, Father Ramon, they put into motion a plan to discover who the slayer may be. Being used to their life of inactivity, this comes as quite a shock for all of them. Especially when they stumble into a werewolf fight! In their investigation of people who purchased a silver bullet, like they one they found at Casimir's place, they encounter the McKinnons. Barry and Dermid are responsible for locking Fr. Ramon, Dave, and Nina up, and for keeping Reuben against his will for the past 5 years to fight as a werewolf.

In a daring escape move, the four manage to get back home, only to be caught in another drama with the McKinnons. Pretty soon, there is no easy way to returning to normal. One comedy of errors follows another, and Jinks does a great job of keeping the story moving. An interesting read, unexpected and fresh. It includes elements of action, mystery, the supernatural, and even a little romance. Also available on audiobook, read in a lovely Australian accent that adds nicely to the story.
"Vampires are meant to be so glamorous and powerful, but I'm here to inform you that being a vampire is nothing like that. Not one bit. On the contrary, it's like being stuck indoors with the flu watching daytime television, forever and ever. If being a vampire were easy, there wouldn't have to be a Reformed Vampire Support Group," (Jinks pg. 5, 2009).
*Library Link*

If you liked this, check out:
Evil Genius by Catherine Jinks
Ninth Grade Slays (Vladmir Todd series #2) by Heather Brewer
Suck it Up by Brian Meehl

Jinks, Catherine. (2009). The Reformed Vampire Support Group. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt: Boston, MA.

Jinks, Catherine and Lee, Carole. (2009). The Reformed Vampire Support Group [audiorecording]. Random House/Listening Library: New York, NY.