The Unknowns, by Benedict Carey

Rating: 4.5/5

Rating: 4.5/5

I never imagined I would like this story as much as I did!

In this story for children 10 and up, two unlikely heroes living in a trailer park community on an island find themselves desperately trying to solve mathematical clues that their friend and tutor, Mrs. Clark, left behind before being kidnapped. Something strange is happening in nearby Folsom Energy plant, and in a community where adults do nothing and expect nothing from anyone even after three of their own have gone missing, it is up to the kids to rescue their only positive role model and figure out what the administrators at Folsom are up to, before it’s too late.

This story has a little bit of everything: adventure, diversity, courage, confidence, sense of community, perseverance, and math! It is an adventure where nothing is what it seems and the most unlikely group is the one to solve this multifaceted problem. The two main characters, Lady Di and Tom Jones are not your usual characters. Di is a chubby red-head and Tom is a skinny, painfully introverted boy from another country with a “disability” that lets him see patterns and sends him on “crazy” trips inside his mind.

Regardless, none of the characters let their shortcomings, (or what at first might appear as a shortcoming), get in the way, and instead live their lives as normally as possible in Adjacent, an island community surrounded by the sea, an array of odd characters, and the dinginess and putrefaction of one section of the island aptly named Mount Trashmore.

Another positive characteristic of this story, (and possibly its biggest problem), is that readers who love to solve puzzles and appreciate mathematics will find it hard to put this book down. The story begins and ends with puzzles that are relevant to real life and present the only way to rescue their friend and save the island. Unfortunately, reluctant readers might not like this book because of its increasing mathematical difficulty. Even those of us who love to read but have a healthy respect for mathematics, might not be too thrilled at how much math is incorporated into the story. As for myself, I didn’t let my math…erm…”respect”… get in the way of a truly wonderful story.

However, those who read to the end will find characters who, though they have terrible role models and situations, are able to succeed through perseverance and growing more confident in their abilities. Readers in difficult situations might find hope in this and realize that it is OK to depend on and believe in yourself, even if it seems people around them hold no such belief.

What I liked most about the story was the feeling of a united and loving community. In the end, the people of Adjacent were a force to be reckoned with, especially the younger members of the island. Though I wish the ending would have been longer and explained a few things in detail, (I would mention what I mean here, except I would give away the end, sorry!), I was still thoroughly satisfied with the story.

I can’t wait for this author’s next book!
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