If this were a normal cover for a normal book, I would tell you that this book is fantastic! Gripping! (According to their covers, all books are fantastic and gripping.) You'd meet the brave yound heroes, Cass and Max-Ernest.* And you'd hear about how a mysterious box of vials, the Symphony of Smells, sends them on the trail of a magician who has vanished under strange (and stinky) circumstances. If this were a normal book, I would brag about the hair-raising adventures that follow--about the brain-twisting riddles Cass and Max-Ernest solve and the nefarious villains they face. But, sadly, I can't tell you about any of those things: they might make you want to read the book.
You see, not only is the name of this book secret, the story is, too. For it concerns a secret--a big secret--that has been tormenting people like you for over...oh no! Did I just mention the secret? Then it's too late.
I'm afraid nothing will stop you now. Open the book if you must. But, please, tell no one.
With apologies, Pseud. Bosch
*Not their real names.
This book is so fun! It's impossible for me not to compare the Secret series with the Unfortunate Event series: both have hilariously witty narrators with stories of their own, both try to convince you not to read the book, both have over-the-top evil villains who just won't die, both have adult figures who don't seem to get what is really going on, and both have resourceful protagonists that save the day! Or at least survive.
The one main difference is that the Secret series is a bit more fun, lighthearted, and friendly. I adored the Unfortunate Events books, but I think I might like this series even more!
Cass is a survivalist, prepared for disaster at all times, even if nothing disastrous has ever occured. Max-Ernest (his parents couldn't decide on one name, so they gave him two) has an unknown condition that causes him to talk and talk and talk, but he cannot seem to tell a joke. The secondary characters are just as well-developed and quirky. There's a boy with synesthesia (and the descriptions of it are beautiful and fascinating!), two fake-grandpas who collect old junk but never sell it, a mother who loves travel books but hates to travel, and an Italian magician with a tragic past.
But more than any of those awesome characters, I love the narrator! He is sardonic, sneaky, and distinctly amoral. He knows he shouldn't tell you this story, but he just wants to really badly! He constantly subverts traditional storytelling. And he's got a story of his own, which I'm dying to learn more about!
I know it is still nearly a year away, but it's going to take a lot for me to find a more deserving winner of the Bluestem award.
Five out of five cryptograms.
Release Date: October 2007
Reading Level: Grade 3+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection: BLUESTEM