Stewart, Trenton Lee. The Secret Keepers
September 27th 2016 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
E ARC from Netgalley.com
Reuben lives with his struggling single mother in the Lower Downs, where he likes to wander about and occasionally climb up walls in alleyways. When he does this once, he finds a very elaborate pocket watch. Thinking it might provided some financial stability for his family, he takes it to several shops in the nicer part of town. He feels uncomfortable with the answers he gets, so when he sees Mrs. Genevieve's run down shop, he feels that he can trust her. She indicates that it is very old and valuable, but that the ruler of the town, The Smoke, has been looking for the watch for a long time and will not deal with Reuben fairly. The Smoke has groups of men who patrol the areas and shake down local business owners, giving this book a slightly Dystopian feel. After experimenting with the watch, Reuben realizes its powers, and also finds out that the watch at one point belonged to someone at Point Williams Lighthouse. He travels there and meets Penny and Jack, and finds out the story of their ancestors, who brought the watch back from travels. Penny and Jack agree to help Reuben try to get a matching watch back from The Smoke, and intrigue and adventure ensue.
Strengths: This was an appealing story with appealing characters. I liked Reuben's close relationship with his mom, and his diligent, if misguided, attempts to try to get the other watch back from The Smoke. Penny and Jack are fun, as is their family history, and Mrs. Genevieve is one of those nice older ladies from fiction whose back room is a totally safe place for you to go to hide from bad guys. She's wearing a pale yellow cardigan and has kind, blue eyes-- how can she be evil?
Weaknesses: This was over 400 pages long, and the story could have been neatly told in two. This author's The Mysterious Benedict Society is weirdly popular among younger students who read at an advanced level, but they've never been my favorite. I didn't think the world building was quite up to snuff, and even The Smoke's motivations seemed weak.
What I really think: Will wait to purchase if I have enough money left at the end of the year.