Reynie is an orphan. Sure he doesn’t have any friends, and his intellect is only mocked and derided by his peers, but he does have a very nice tutor named Miss Perumal. It is with the help of Miss Perumal that he attends a special test for gifted children.
It is quite an unusual test, and Reynie is the only one that passes. During a series of other, increasingly bizarre tests, Reynie meets Sticky (named for the way facts ‘stick’ with him), Kate (who carries a bucket everywhere), and Constance (she’s really grumpy).
The four of them have been recruited by Mr. Benedict and his assistants, Milligan, Number Two, and Rhonda, to help save the world. Mr. Benedict, you see, is a genius. Like, a total super-genius, though also a nice guy with narcolepsy. As a matter of fact, he’s such a genius he’s the only person that’s realized that there are secret messages being transmitted behind the radio and television programming: messages that are controlling people’s minds. The madman behind the messages has been using children’s voices, which pass into our subconscious more easily.
Now Mr. Benedict needs the children to infiltrate ‘The Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened,’ which is really just a front for the whole secret message implanting system. Everyone is a little hesitant to agree, not only because the message-sender is a madman, but because his henchman, The Suits, are prone to cut your ears off with laser pointers or electric shock you to death with their wristwatches.
Inside the school, the kids are shown around by Executives—former students who were so ‘successful’ they’ve been recruited to stay full time. Some of the other students are ‘messengers,’ a not so subtle clue of who has been recruited to record the messages.
In their first day of class, the group is surprised to discover that the mastermind and headmaster, Ledroptha Curtain, is the mirror image of Mr. Benedict; only Curtain always wears sunglasses and recklessly drives a motorized wheelchair at high speeds. Benedict’s evil twin is just as intelligent, making him a formidable enemy. The kids quickly settle in to a routine of memorizing strange, creepy ‘lessons,’ whilst spying on the sly. Sticky and Reynie quickly shoot to the head of the class, but Kate and Constance struggle to keep up. To compensate, the team devises a cheating strategy, which works well until Sticky gets caught and is punished in an underground mud-pit filled with insects.
The messages continue to get stronger as Curtain perfects his machine. He even begins using Sticky and Reynie to record messages, and they are unsettled by how much they enjoy it. Clearly, something must be done.
And that something, of course, is a strange, tag-team espionage affair that involves all the players, Milligan, and alot of Kate’s red bucket.
Curtain and his goons manage to escape, but Mr. Benedict and the team gain control of the Whisperer, AND Kate learns that Milligan is her father (he recovers from his amnesia to remember he is also a special agent). Sticky is reunited with his family, and Reynie with his tutor and her mother. Happy family time reunion chapter. Mr. Benedict even announces his plans to adopt Constance, during her third birthday party. Yup, now we know why Constance falls asleep all the time and whines, and steals food. Toddlers are like that.