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

in a sentence or so: without warning, five brilliant children are taken from their scientist parents by some very strange men wearing very strange black outfits and are left wondering where their parents are, how they can get back to them, and most importantly - do their parents even want to be found?

Jasper, Lucy, Faye, Wallace and Noah aren't your typical kids from 1903. turns out they're quite brilliant. you could argue it's good genes, given that their parents are all brilliant scientists...or it could be that they are just inventive, creative, and clever kids. either way, they are just like your run of the mill kiddo when it comes to the love and trust they place in their parents. that trust is painfully questioned when they all end up at the Sole Manor House. the kids realize that they all arrived under similar circumstances - the very oddly dressed men in black took them from their parents, dropped them off with a nanny in Dayton, Ohio, and provided absolutely no explanation.

two things are for certain: the kids want to be with their parents and they want some answers. since none of their nannies or their teacher, Miss Brett, can explain anything, they'll have to combine their little genius brains to get to the bottom of what's going on. while the kids hatch a plan of escape, they begin to discover pieces of their parents past and are surprised to find there was much they didn't know about them.

i loved the individuality of each character. Jasper the leader, Lucy the observing and unabashedly caring youngest, Faye the spoiled beauty, Wallace the square-peg-in-the-round-hole, and Noah the funny man. through flashback chapters, we slowly learn about each of their pasts and their arrival to the Sole Manor House as well as their familial history. through these back stories we gain insight into their characters that compliment their roles in the escape plan.  coming together isn't easy for these kids, but they know it's crucial to work as a team if they have any hope of finding their parents again.

i appreciated the dualism that drove this book. with the dual title being the most obvious example, each chapter has a primary and secondary title. for example: "The Soprano's Son or Noah Shares Someone Fit for a King". see! how cool is that?  mostly, i appreciated the dualism with the kids. obviously being brilliant gives them a capacity to grasp complex concepts and problem solve like the most clever of adults, but being children means that they still have the needs, wants, and desires of kids. they spend hours in the lab creating compounds and designing engineering wonders, but they still want the hugs and kisses of a mother with a bedtime story. the complexity of their characters made connecting with this read a breeze. in a way, the book reminded me of The Chronicles of Narnia (which is a HUGE compliment) in the intricate child characters dealing with problems that are so big and so overwhelming in an absolutely realistic and emotional way.

this read grew on me with each chapter, with each new discovery, and with each freaky plot twist. i didn't realize this was the first in a series, so i was a bit curious how everything was going to wrap up. surprisingly, we do get a solid amount of resolution to tie up some loose ends while the Larger Questions wait to be explored in the next book. this was clever, creative, and stretched the imagination.

fave quote: "Mostly, they learned that, however unsure they were about the rest of the world, and however much they didn't fit in with most teachers and students, they were sure Miss Brett cared, they had each other, and they were all in this together." (131)

fix er up: this started a bit slow for me, but once i committed to reading a few chapters at a time, i couldn't put it down.

title: The Atomic Weight of Secrets or The Arrival of the Mysterious Men in Black
author: Eden Unger Bowditch
genre: Historical Fiction, Fantasy
publisher: Bancroft Press
drops: March 15, 2011

[ftc notice: i received this book via NetGalley with approval from Bancroft Press for review, but not for  compensation or anything.]

Lisa is a gamer, crafter, fangirl, mother, wife and unabashed nerd who is pretty ridiculous and it's best you know that up front. When she's not binge watching Netflix or crafting into the wee hours of the night, you can find her spending a lot of her time on Pinterest and Twitter.


  1. this does sound like something i might enjoy. is the entire series finished already?

  2. when i read this, i totally thought you'd enjoy it. especially the blend of genius kiddos and historical setting.

    this is the first book in the series and drops on march 15th. i heard from the author though that she planted seeds of mystery along the way, so at least the next two books (it's a trilogy) are planned out to some extent!


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