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The Atomic Weight of Secrets or The Arrival…

The Atomic Weight of Secrets or The Arrival of the Mysterious Men in Black…

by Eden Unger Bowditch

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4512384,453 (3.82)1



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The Atomic Weight of Secrets tells the story of five young children who are absolutely brilliant inventors. Torn away from their homes without warning, they are deposited far from home. Mysterious men in black are constantly monitoring them. All they know is that they have one another, and their parents are missing. Sounds like quite a secretive mystery doesn't it?

Let me begin at the beginning, with the characters. Lucy, Jasper, Wallace, Faye and Noah are a motley crew of kids at first. All from different backgrounds, it takes them a while to understand one another. Eden Unger Bowditch allows each of her characters to have such unique and wonderful personalities. From the quiet and shy one, to the fiery and slightly spiteful one, they are so much fun to follow. As a reader, I fell in love with them more and more as I learned about their pasts.

However it was the story that really held problems for me. So much time is spent giving background to the children, and allowing them to grow, that there isn't much actual story line at all. It's slow. The elements of mystery that are present are great. The men in black are a constant reminder of something much bigger than the children themselves. Still, to be honest, nothing really happens. This isn't a spoiler, it's just true. I know this is a first book in a series and so I suppose that more will be coming later. I just felt a little cheated by how incomplete this book really felt.

Part historical fiction, part mystery The Atomic Weight of Secrets really did have a lot of potential to be fabulous. The children drew me in, but the story killed it for me. There were even times where things were so slow that I almost decided to put the book down, and that hardly ever happens for me. What I hope is that the next book in the series has more action! As I said, the characters are wonderful. I look forward to seeing them use their talents even more, hopefully this time in an effort to do something daring. ( )
  roses7184 | Feb 5, 2019 |
It's 1903, and five children suddenly find themselves and their parents whisked away from their homes all over the world, to Dayton, Ohio, by mysterious men dressed entirely in black. The children are then separated from their parents, and brought together as the only students of Miss Brett, at Sole Manner Farm.

The children's parents are brilliant scientists, and the children themselves--Faye, Jasper, Lucy, Noah, and Wallace--are also budding young brilliant scientists. Miss Brett is startled to discover that she has nothing to teach them in the realm of science and mathematics, and equally startled to discover that they have never encountered stories, rhymes, songs, any form of literature. (Or cooking, either; Faye, for instance, has never seen eggs in their uncooked form.) They abandon the intended lesson plan, and the children expand Miss Brett's knowledge of science, while she introduces them to literature and cooking.

Meanwhile, the children worry about the absence of their parents and the lack of any word from them, and about the fact that the Men in Black are patrolling around the farm, ensuring that they cannot escape. But these are not your ordinary scared children. They act out their fear by trying to investigate the Men in Black, and invent the means to escape from the farm, and find and rescue their parents. In the process, these children who have never had good school experiences because they knew even more than their teachers, who have never had encounters that didn't end badly because they are accustomed to always being the smartest, have to learn how to work together as a team. The mechanical genius, the chemistry genius, the photographic memory, the budding young draftsman who can make "sketches" that are good working blueprints, all need to learn mutual respect and trust, and pool those talents.

They also need to take in a good deal of conflicting and confusing evidence, and figure out who in the adult world are their friends, and who are their enemies.

In addition to some definite science-fictional elements, there's also a strong element of secret history here, and saying more than that would reveal some critical plot elements far too soon.

This is a good, solid, young adult science fiction novel, probably accessible to readers somewhat below the intended age range. It is the first of a series, but does come to a reasonably satisfying interim conclusion.


I received a free electronic galley of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. ( )
  LisCarey | Sep 19, 2018 |
A book about and for bright young people. Pleasantly reminded of _The Mysterious Benedict Society_. Will find it difficult to wait gracefully for the next installments. ( )
  JoePhelan | Dec 14, 2014 |
This book reminded me from the first pages of the Mysterious Benedict Society books by Trenton Lee Stewart (which incidentally are quite delightful). Although different in some aspects, they share the group of young people of immeasurable intelligence, all with their own skill to bring to the task at hand. Fans of the Mysterious Benedict Society should read this now! Non-fans should read both!

Every chapter title begins with a title and then an alternative title, just like book does. Part of me thinks that using this device in modern books is a bit pompous, but another part thinks that it's really awesome, so... Anyway, this method does work pretty well, given the historical fiction setting (late nineteenth century). Watch out for the cameo by some historical figures; it was clever and a bit unexpected.

The only weakness of the book is the nebulousness of the forces of evil. Nothing is really resolved or figured out at the end of the novel. Since this is the first in the series, this does not necessarily doom the book. The men in black are figures of menace (maybe?) throughout the book, but only sort of. There is a limit to how menacing people can be while dressed thus:

"Actually, there were two waiting carriages, one driven by a man wearing dark glasses, a black cape, and a bullfighter's hat that appeared to have actual horns coming out of either side, the other by a driver who seemed to be so short that he's have a hard time seeing over the knee guard on the coachman's seat. That said, his hat was so tall it seemed it would stretch higher than the man himself, is they were placed side by side. Like his fluffy jumper and ballooning trousers, the hat was black. His glasses, or rather goggles, were black, too."

The Atomic Weight of Secrets is wonderfully written and a joy to read. It's in stores and libraries now, so look for it! I will be waiting impatiently for book two. ( )
  A_Reader_of_Fictions | Apr 1, 2013 |
To see my review:http://bookvacations.wordpress.com/2011/02/28/arc-review-the-atomic-weight-of-secrets-or-the-arrival-of-the-mysterious-men-in-black-by-eden-unger-bowditch/ ( )
  ABookVacation | Nov 12, 2011 |
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When the men in black arrive to take five brilliant young inventors to an isolated schoolhouse in Dayton, Ohio, they discover they all know the same poem and have all been working on the same invention.

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