The Atomic Weight of Secrets or The Arrival of the Mysterious Men in Black by Eden Unger Bowditch


Why is this cover creepier than the entire book?

I’m not sure if the author/publisher simply couldn’t decide what to call the book and the chapter titles, or if they thought it was clever to have two names for everything. For me, it was sort of distracting and I couldn’t help but wish they had chosen one. (Personally, I would choose The Arrival of the Mysterious Men in Black over The Atomic Weight of Secrets.)

 

The book is about five young geniuses (thirteen and under) who are the children of geniuses. When men dressed in strange black clothing come to their home, they are taken away and separated from their parents with no explanation. They are brought to a house and school nearby where they get to learn what they missed as young geniuses missed–how to be a kid–and how to care for others. They decide they must find their parents, who might be in trouble, and do so by creating something to help them find their parents.

The strengths of this book were in its smaller moments. Lucy and Jasper’s relationship, for example, was sweet and believable. He takes care of his little sister but sometimes gets annoyed with her, one time even catching himself before yelling. The way that the Wright Brothers and the creation of the first aeroplane are explained was also clever. Faye is also a strong character; she easily goes through the greatest amount of growth from start to finish as she comes to care for people besides herself…

But for all its strengths, there are a number of weaknesses too. One major weakness was the number of children. With five kids, it was hard to really get to know many of them. Noah in particular felt like an unnecessary part of the story. He was barely a character. Due to the number of characters, it took a while to settle into the story itself, having to go back and describe each kids’ respective families and how they ended up in the schoolhouse. It also felt a little too easy and convenient for Faye’s family to be nearby and so easily accessible in the end.

Ultimately, the resolution to the book (this is book one of a series) was unsatisfying. There was no solution born of the kids’ work and creations, it was just resolved (at least partially) for them. We didn’t really finish the story knowing any more than we started with. It left me more frustrated with the ending than excited for a second book.

[UPDATE: The author, Eden Unger, says the duality of the title has a purpose and that more secrets will be revealed in book two.]

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