The Secret Keepers by Trenton Lee Steward is an adventure that focuses on 11-year-old boy named Reuben who lives in Lower Downs which, is one of the poorer areas of the city of New Umbra. Reuben’s father died when he was a baby and his mother works two jobs to keep a roof over their head and food on the table. Reuben spends his days exploring the city, keeping watch on various inhabitants of the neighborhood while his mother is at work.
While Reuben wanders around the city the reader learns about the politics of the city. The reader learns about a mystery man known as “The Smoke” who keeps the city under his thumb. As years pass “The Smoke” has reached a level of influence of those who have control. “The Smoke” has a spies that are referred to as “The Directions” by Reuben and others in the neighborhood. The spies go out in groups of your and have a specific direction in which they go in order to keep watch. One of Reuben’s many games is to from “The Directions” where he is still able to observe them.
Reuben discovered an alley with two buildings. He climbs the buildings he discovers a small box engraved with a name and containing an intriguing watch. He looks at the watch and thinks perhaps he could sell it to help his family. As he tries to find a potential buyer, Reuben learns that “The Smoke” has been searching for a similar watch for many years. Reuben begins messing with the watch and finds an unexpected secret. The watch has a temporary but amazing power. “The Smoke” learns that a boy has found the watch and sends “The Directions” to find Reuben .
Reuben sets out to find the history of the watch and see what he can learn about its previous owners. His search leads him to the Meyer family who has a multi-generation secret story around the watch. The youngest member of the family, Penny, becomes a good friend to Reuben and he convinces him to bring her along. Her older brother Jack finds out about their plans and attaches himself to the adventure to try and undermine “The Smoke” and his hold on the city.
The pacing of the story is methodical and builds on itself as the story progresses. The book is split into three parts. The first part focuses on Reuben in the Lower Downs and his search through New Umbra to learn more about the watch. The second involves his trip where he meets the Meyer family and learns the history of the watch and then formulates his plan to take on the Smoke. The final part involves his plans and the confrontation with the Smoke. The characters and story is interesting and engaging.
I recommend this book to middle grade or YA readers. Be prepared for intriguing and engaging twists and turns to take you down both predictable and unpredictable roads and leaving you with a number of thoughtful questions to consider.
I give this book 4/5 stars.
I received this books from Little, Brown Books for Young Readers via Netgalley in exchange for a honest review.