Ear Sounds: The Secret Keepers by Trenton Lee Stewart, 2016 (print),audio from Wisconsin Digital Library.
I was giddy when this audiobook became available and became disappointed as I listened. School Library Journal gave this a starred review. No. My mind kept wandering as I listened. Maybe that lack of attention is from the sorta-lousy narration but I better enjoyed the real-but-different world of Stewart's Mysterious Benedict Society.
This novel is not firmly set in present day reality but it's also not grounded to a fictional place. There are some make-believe elements that I really liked: a watch that gives invisibility and an entire city under the thumb of a crime lord. Secret Keepers just does not have the details that Mysterious Benedict has on the places and society. In Mysterious you knew "The Emergency" was in place and how it effected life and politics, that the Ten Men were scary villains, so on, so forth.
Reuben and his widowed mother live in a crappier part of Uma City. His mother works two jobs to pay the bills and her only child Reuben (about 12-years-old) spends a lot of time alone and roaming the neighborhood. Reuben has made no friends and with school out of session he keeps to himself. He fancies himself a spy in training and travels the streets, alleys, abandoned buildings, and rooftops without detection. When chimneying up between two buildings he just barely makes it to a high ledge. Sitting there - about 30 feet up - he sees something sticking out of the masonry. He pulls and discovers a bread bag with an old oddly colored watch packed inside.
The watch is old, has a mysterious inscription, and doesn't work, but Reuben figures this rare item is valuable. So, in an effort to financially assist his family he visits the wealthy part of the city and tries to sell the watch at different shops. He gets odd reactions from sales people and the first guy he visits tries to scam Reuben. Reuben ends up visiting a watch and clock repair store and speaks to Mrs. Genevieve. Mrs. Genevieve lets Reuben in on the secret that the watch is wanted by the crime boss's man in town, The Counselor. There are also daily adverts in the newspaper - which Reuben was unaware of - offering rewards for anyone bringing the watch to the advertiser's attention.
Things start to happen as Reuben plays around with the watch and discovers it is not broken but, when correctly set, turns the holder invisible. Things happen as Reuben experiments with the watch, uses the public library to decipher the watch's description, and heads North to a seaside town. Reuben discovers the watch has been missing for decades. Reuben meets a girl his age named Penny whose family has kept a lighthouse for generations and guarded a secret connected to the mysterious watch.
More things happen with a car chase, fisticuffs, danger, intrigue, sneaking, more danger, pursuit, a booby trapped house, and a mean old man as the villain.
A decent read but I had higher hopes. Give it a try for casual, middle-school aged adventures.