Greystone Secrets #1 by Margaret Peterson Haddix
Narrated by Jorjeana Marie
Published on: April 2, 2019
I had previously seen The Strangers as well as the next in the series The Deceivers, but never added it to my to-be-read list. However, when it became one the finalists for middle grade book of the year in GoodReads 2019 Choice Awards, I thought perhaps it was time that I should pick it up. It didn’t end up winning – The Tyrant’s Tomb by Rick Riordan did and I suspect one day I’ll add that one to my list too.
What makes you you?
The Greystone kids thought they knew. Chess has always been the protector over his younger siblings, Emma loves math, and Finn does what Finn does best—acting silly and being adored. They’ve been a happy family, just the three of them and their mom.
But everything changes when reports of three kidnapped children reach the Greystone kids, and they’re shocked by the startling similarities between themselves and these complete strangers. The other kids share their same first and middle names. They’re the same ages. They even have identical birthdays. Who, exactly, are these strangers?
Before Chess, Emma, and Finn can question their mom about it, she takes off on a sudden work trip and leaves them in the care of Ms. Morales and her daughter, Natalie. But puzzling clues left behind lead to complex codes, hidden rooms, and a dangerous secret that will turn their world upside down.
The story begins when the children come home one day to find their mother a bit distraught. Something is clearly bothering her as she listens to the TV or radio where they are stating that three children have been kidnapped – three siblings from Arizona with identical first and middle names as well as ages/birth dates of each of the Greystone children. That night Chess overhears his mom talking to someone named “Joe” saying he “needed to fix it.” The next day when the kids get up to go to school their mom tells them she has a business trip in Chicago she needs to go on and will be gone for a few days, but she has found someone to take care of them – the mother of another student. Things are strange as they only receive texts from their mom on the first day gone, but the kids very quickly discover that their mom has prewritten the texts and timed when they will be sent out with the last one saying that she is sorry she can’t come back home.
Before reading this book, I read one review that said it was best to go into this story blind. I can somewhat see what they might be saying, but sometimes it’s nice to know at least what sub-genre you might be picking up. Historical fiction? Fantasy? This one is very unusual to me because it touches a topic or subject in science fiction that can be difficult to relay to the readers – even in adult books. While reading it, my immediate thoughts reminded me of A Wrinkle in Time. While The Strangers is clearly not the same book, it reminded me of when I was in 5th grade watching the book through a film projector (not a movie, but scenes with narration). As I watched A Wrinkle in Time, I remember trying to grasp the concepts it was portraying to us because it was so foreign to me. This is one of those books where there is an unusual concept to grasp, but I think it was explained and shown just about as well as it could be.
Audio Book Review:
Intense. That’s at least what it felt like for me when listening to the story on audio. The story is written in 3 POVs: Chess, Emma, and Finn, who are the three Greystone children in the story. As the children each tell the story from their point of view we get this overall sense of urgency and seriousness as they try to uncover what is really going on and how to get their mother back. The audio book really seemed to portray this very well as I had to stop it sometimes just to get an emotional and mental break. Who knew middle grade audio books could have such an effect?
My favorite character to listen to was Finn, who is the youngest. The narrator really created a terrific child-like voice to portray him. I could immediately tell it was Finn narrating when it came to be his turn. He was also the one who provided emotional breaks for me while listening as his take on things were sometimes rather cute to listen to.
Overall, this was an engaging story to listen to that I think fans of A Wrinkle in Time might enjoy or for those who are looking for books where life is just a little bit off and not quite settled.
Length: 7hrs 56 minutes
Rating: 5 stars
Be sure to check out the other Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts, hosted by Greg Pattridge at Always in the Middle.