Cut to the Chase:
Nice premise, fun characters and an interesting plot make for a wonderfully entertaining read. Though there are bits that were slow (there are 2-3 places where I really felt like the plot and pacing seemed to suddenly slow down) and also parts that were ultimately a bit predictable (though maybe less so if I weren’t an adult), it was a fun, interesting read. I think it’s great for middle-aged kids (the protagonists are in the 11-12ish range): especially ones that maybe feel a bit left out or not-completely-normal. There’s a fair bit of “let’s celebrate what makes us different” and a lot of small, fun adventures throughout. Despite the slower bits, I found it to be a quick and engrossing read overall, one that makes me interested in reading the rest of the series, and definitely one I’d recommend to elementary through maybe early middle school children.
In Greater Detail:
This is a build-your-team type of adventure (I think I’ve described it a bit as Harry Potter without magic). We have a team of mostly outcasts/misfits, who are also (mostly) orphans.
1: One is exceedingly smart/clever.
2. One is extraordinarily gifted physically (and a good mechanical problem solver).
3. One has a nearly eidetic memory (though isn’t always able to apply it quite as quickly as one might hope)
4. .. and the last is… the stereotypical troublemaker/bark-worse-than-bite.
The book starts with Reynie, our smart/clever main protagonist who currently lives at an orphanage. He sees an advertisement for “special opportunities” for children who pass a certain test (which later out turns out to be a series of tests). The beginning tests end up taking up perhaps a third of the book, though they serve as a nice introduction to our main characters (each of them have unique ways of solving the same problems…)
As the book progresses we learn (of course) that there are nefarious plots underfoot, villains and secret messages and dangerous missions. Our unlikely team of heroes must learn to work together and… so on.
Despite the fact that there truly are a few slow places where the pace dips significantly (or where there are small turns I didn’t particularly love), overall, It’s a fun and engaging read, and definitely a series I’ll be continuing…