Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Book Review: The Atomic Weight of Secrets

BookThe Atomic Weight of Secrets or The Arrival of the Mysterious Men in Black (Young Inventors Guild Trilogy #1) by Eden Unger Bowditch, Bancroft Press, 2011, 339 pages.

Source:  Received egalley from the publisher via NetGalley.

Synopsis:  (from Goodreads):
In 1903, five truly brilliant young inventors, the children of the world's most important scientists, went about their lives and their work as they always had.

But all that changed the day the men in black arrived.

They arrived to take twelve-year-old Jasper Modest and his six-year-old sister, Lucy, he with his remarkable creations and she with her perfect memory from their London, England home to a place across the ocean they'd never seen before.

They arrived to take nine-year-old Wallace Banneker, last in a long line of Africa-descended scientists, from his chemistry, his father, and his New York home to a life he'd never imagined.

Twelve-year-old Noah Canto-Sagas, already missing his world-famous and beloved mother, was taken from Toronto, Canada, carrying only his clothes, his violin, and his remarkable mind.

And thirteen-year-old Faye Vigyanveta, the genius daughter of India's wealthiest and most accomplished scientists, was removed by force from her life of luxury.

From all across the world, they've been taken to mysterious Sole Manner Farm, and a beautiful but isolated schoolhouse in Dayton, Ohio, without a word from their parents as to why.   Not even the wonderful schoolteacher they find there, Miss Brett, can explain it. She can give them love and care, but she can t give them answers.

Things only get stranger from there. What is the book with no pages Jasper and Lucy find in their mother's underwear drawer, and why do the men in black want it so badly?

How is it all the children have been taught the same bizarre poem and yet no other rhymes or stories their entire lives?

And why haven't their parents tried to contact them?

Whatever the reasons, to brash, impetuous Faye, the situation is clear: They and their parents have been kidnapped by these terrible men in black, and the only way they're going to escape and rescue their parents is by completing the invention they didn't even know they were all working on an invention that will change the world forever.

But what if the men in black aren't trying to harm the children? What if they're trying to protect them?
And if they're trying to protect them, from what?

An amazing story about the wonders of science and the still greater wonders of friendship, The Atomic Weight of Secrets or The Mysterious Men in Black , the first book of the Young Inventors Guild trilogy, is a truly original novel. Young readers will forever treasure Eden Unger Bowditch's funny, inventive, poignant, and wonderfully fun fiction debut.

My Thoughts:
I was anxious to read this book, mostly because the cover and the title drew me in.  I love the dual title and this is carried through in the book with the chapter headings. The cover is also beautiful and intriguing.

The book itself is full of science and creative inventions and it is interesting to read a steampunk novel for kids.  There is adventure and tension, with the kids thinking up smart solutions to problems, but still from childlike points of view.  I like how they did not seem more sophisticated than they were.  No matter how intelligent the kids are, they still come to childlike conclusions.

I did enjoy reading this book, it is quirky and different, but it is also a bit difficult.  There are times when it is fast paced, but also when it is quite slow, as the book alternates between what is happening in the present and the past of these five children. 

I loved the characters, especially the kids and how authentic they felt.  They are so smart and sure in how smart they are.  I also liked watching the friendship grow between the five children and how they developed as people.  I felt invested in all five of them.

The men in black were a fun addition, with their outrageous costumes and bizarre behaviour.   There is almost a Lemony Snicket feel to the book, with the crazy men in black, the quirky sense of humour and a mysterious plot overshadowing the entire book.

This book set so much up and left so much unanswered and I will certainly be interested in reading the next installment.  Also, the website for the book is a fun one (click on the book title above), as it has information and games.  I am sure that middle school kids who are interested in steampunk and science would enjoy this book.


  1. Great review, Coreena! And what an amazing Blog! I am new to Blogging and Reviewing, though not new to books!! There are so many wonderful blogs, but I do want to follow yours - I have subscribed to your email updates.

    I do have one question - what is steampunk?

    Choose Joy!

  2. Patricia,
    Thank you for your kind comments.
    Steampunk are books that take place in the age of steam (the Victorian era) and usually has an element of fantasy to it. There are usually futuristic inventions, often with clockwork, etc. I don't know a huge amount about it, but find there tends to be a fun scientific and creative aspect to the inventions.


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