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Literature / Secret Series

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I can't keep a secret. Never could...

The Secret Series is a series by Pseudonymous Bosch (real name Raphael Simon), a mysterious Lemony Narrator, about two children who are not named Cass and Max-Ernest. Cass is a survivalist, while Max-Ernest has a condition (though no one knows quite what his condition is). One day, they are swept into the dangerous world of the Terces Society and the Midnight Sun...and the Secret.

There are five books in the series:

  • The Name of This Book is Secret
  • If You're Reading This, it's Too Late
  • This Book is Not Good for You
  • This Isn't What it Looks Like
  • You Have to Stop This

In 2013, the series was followed by Write This Book: A Do-It-Yourself Mystery. While not directly a part of the Secret Series, it directly references several characters and situations from it.

In 2014, a followup trilogy began with Bad Magic. This title focuses on a new protagonist named Clay (originally Paul-Clay) who is sent to a strange camp for wayward youths after being falsely accused of an act of vandalism. Clay is the younger brother of Max-Ernest, who at the start of the novel has been missing for over two years, having disappeared leaving only a mysterious note telling his family not to worry.

  • Bad Magic (2014)
  • Bad Luck (originally titled Bad Kids) (February 2016)
  • Bad News (March 2017)

Tropes featured in this series:

  • Alpha Bitch: Amber comes up in the first books as well-intentioned although misguided, but later is revealed to be clearly this.
  • Ambiguously Gay: Grandpa Larry and Grandpa Wayne are never outright stated to be a couple. Just two guys who live together since a long time ago, bicker amongst themselves even though they clearly care a lot for each other and have a substitute daughter and granddaughter and substitute grandson, in the fourth book together.
  • Arch-Enemy: Dr. L to Pietro.
  • Aristocrats Are Evil: Lord Pharaoh. Although not a real Lord (nor a real Pharaoh). The rest of the nobility aren't particularly noble either.
  • Artificial Human: The Homunculus in the second book.
  • Artistic License – Linguistics: In the third book, Barcelona native Señor Hugo's "lisping Spanish accent" is said to be indicative of his Catalonian origins. Not only are Catalan and Castilian completely different languages, decidedly refuting the former's designation as a mere accent, the voiceless dental fricative /θ/ does not even exist in the Valencian and Balearic varieties, let alone Hugo's native one, making the assertion that said natives pronounce the name of their hometown "Barthelona" a case of Critical Research Failure.
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  • Bad is Good and Good is Bad: In Bad Magic, when Clay says a bad word when he is very young that he picked up from somewhere, Max-Ernest explains to him that it's a bad word and Clay wonders why it's bad. Max-Ernest explains that bad words are words that hurt people's feelings. From that day, however, they develop a sort of code, in which between them, "bad word" means "magic word."
  • The Beautiful Elite: The Midnight Sun usually has unnatural beauty, which they sometimes exploit in their evil schemes.
  • Big Eater: The Homunculus in the second book. Half of his dialogue consists of "I'm hungry!"
  • Brainwashed: Benjamin Blake, briefly, in the fourth book, by the Midnight Sun, no less.
  • Butt-Monkey: Max-Ernest. His "best friends" constantly make fun of him, his parents hate each other to the point of ignoring each other, and he suffers many Amusing Injuries. And that's just the tip of the iceberg.
  • Cassandra Truth: Played with. Cass is a survivalist that always predicts disasters, but they rarely come true
  • Catchphrase "How 'bout that?"
  • Cannot Tell a Joke: Max-Ernest. The only times that he's funny in-universe is when he isn't trying to be.
  • Does Not Like Spam: Cass absolutely hates raisins, and her survival mix recipe ends with, "no raisins, ever!" When her mother grounds her in the second book, she promises to put raisins in instead of chocolate chips after her mother forbids her from having chocolate.
  • Dog Walks You: Bad News, from The Bad Books Sequel Series, has an intro in which a Dragon Tamer talks about the many irritating questions asked of him, the first of which is almost always "What is it like to ride a dragon—is it like riding a horse?" His response is that "You really want to know what riding a dragon is like? First of all, you don't ride a dragon; the dragon rides you. As soon as you climb onto a dragon's back, you let go of the idea that you are in control. The dragon is the pilot; you are a passenger—no, a barely tolerated stowaway."
  • Darker and Edgier: The first book is very morbid in tone compared to the later books. It dealt with a mysterious death, a brain removal attempt by the villains, and much harsher and less "contemporary" dialogue, while the later books balance out the stakes with quirky, often goofy humor, from both the series' universe and its Lemony Narrator
  • Doorstop Baby: Cassandra.
  • Dragon Rider: Clay is this is in Bad News, this as described just above, it's really more "Dragon Rides You."
  • Driven to Villainy: Dr. L.
  • Evil Chef: Señor Hugo
  • Evil Mentor: Ms. Mauvais for Dr. L. and Amber, by the end and Itamar to Ms. Mavuais
  • Evil Twin: Dr. L is Pietro's twin. And the Skelton Sisters, both of whom are evil.
  • Footnote Fever
  • Genre Savvy: Cass, survivalist and danger specialist, strives for it.
  • Give Him a Normal Life: Possibly the reason Cass was put on her grandfathers' doorstep.
  • Hilariously Abusive Childhood: Although his parents are well-intentioned, poor Max-Ernest has an unusual childhood to say the least. Both of his parents are absolutely certain that he or she is right, and the other is well-intentioned, but misguided. When Max-Ernest was born, they argued for several days about whether to name him "Max" or "Ernest". This argument lasted so long that the nurse threatened to put him up for adoption, name or no name. They then compromised, and then divorced. But they both still live in the same house, since the one thing they can agree on is that every child should be raised by both his parents. So they split the house in half and pretend the other half doesn't exist.
  • Hurricane of Puns The Jester is the very incarnation of this trope.
  • I Lied: The Lemony Narrator always does this whenever he promises to reveal the Secret.
  • Idiot Ball: You just had to eat that chocolate, didn't you?
  • Jerkass: Cass can be very snotty and rude to her mother and especially Max-Ernest with little to no remorse, and has a pretty big ego.
  • Knife Outline: Used for intimidation in the third book
  • Lemony Narrator: This is heavily, heavily present in all of the books of the original Secret Series. The style is some ways very similar to A Series of Unfortunate Events, though in many ways different. The narrator is, nevertheless, very obtrusive. This trope is still present but heavily downplayed in The Bad Books, to the relief of some reviewers who felt it was used to the point of driving the reader to distraction in the original series.
  • Long-Lost Relative: Dr. L for Pietro.
  • MacGuffin: Every book centers around either finding some ancient artifact, or keeping it away from the Midnight Sun.
  • Mad Scientist: Most of the Midnight Sun, and their founder.
  • Meaningful Name: Cass, done purposely, and is lampshaded.
  • The Mole: Benjamin Blake, briefly.
  • Morally Ambiguous Doctorate: Dr. L.
  • Motor Mouth: Max-Ernest. Also Cass (briefly) in the first book.
  • My Beloved Smother: Both of Max-Ernest's parents, in competition with each other.
  • Narrator All Along: This Isn't What It Looks Like suggests that Max-Ernest is actually Pseudonymous Bosch when he was young.
    • Confirmed in the epilogue of You Have to Stop This.
  • Nepharious Pharaoh: Lord Pharaoh is a prime example of this: evil, single-minded dedication to living forever and quite possibly taking over the world someday.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: This Book Is Not Good For You could've been done differently if Cass didn't open her big mouth regarding the Tuning Fork.
  • Platonic Life-Partners: Cass and Max-Ernest.
  • Punny Name: In the Bad Books Sequel Series, Clay has a llama that he speaks to in Spanish as a pet of sorts, and which is named Como C. Llama. ("¿Como se llama?" is Spanish for "What is your name?")
  • Red Right Hand: All of the members of the Midnight Sun have gnarled, ancient hands that they hide under gloves.
  • The Reveal: The Secret itself, surprisingly, at the end of You Have to Stop This. While it may seem to be just a joke at first "Why did the ibis cross the road? To get to the other side.", it's established that "the other side" is some otherworldly realm that dragons and the dead inhabit.
  • The Speechless: Max-Ernest, while Cass is in a coma.
  • Super Senses: Cass has excellent hearing. And Pseudonymous Bosch claims to have perfect vision.
  • Surprise Party: Clay is given one at the end of Bad Magic to signify his having discovered real magic.
  • Theme Naming: Max-Ernest's name is a reference to the artist Max Ernst, and his younger brother Paul-Clay's name is a reference to artist Paul Klee.
  • Think of the Children!: The reason Max-Ernest's parents, despite their divorce, remain in the same house and the reason they eventually split up.
  • This Is a Work of Fiction
    • In You Have to Stop This, the final book of the series, the disclaimer reads "The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author. Of course, you know what they say about good intentions...."
    • Write This Book: A Do-It-Yourself Mystery, a tie-in to the series, has a normal version of the disclaimer. There is, however, a label before it reading "Traditional (and absolutely completely totally sincere) disclaimer."
    • Bad Luck, which is the second title of the Sequel Series, again has a normal version of the disclaimer. Underneath it, however, it says "Blah, blah, blah..."
    • Bad News, the final book of the sequel series, has a normal version of the disclaimer, but next to it in italics: "Any resemblance to actual dragons is a different story—a story that the author of this book would very much like to hear." Additionally, on the copyright page, it has "Hachette Book Group supports the right to free expression and value of copyright. The purpose of copyright is to encourage writers and artists to produce creative works that enrich our culture. Incidentally, that is also the purpose of chocolate."
  • Those Two Guys: Daniel-not-Danielle and Glob in the fourth book.
  • Totally Radical: "Yo" Yoji's entire character revolves around this trope.
  • 20 Minutes into the Future: Although the narrator is an adult Max-Ernest, the story of the books seems to take place during the time they were published, implying this of the author.
  • Two Guys and a Girl: Cass, Max-Ernest, and Yo-Yoji.
  • Unusual Chapter Numbers: If You're Reading This, it's Too Late has the chapters in reverse order (starting with Chapter 34 and ending with Chapter 1) because the author hopes the book (and the secrets contained within) will explode like the countdown timer on a bomb. In This Isn't What It Looks Like there are normal chapters, but also negative chapters for Cass and what she's doing in the past.
  • Wholesome Crossdresser: Owen in book 4.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Mayonnaise, for the author and Max-Ernest.
  • Wooden Katanas Are Even Better: Samurai Yo-Yoji doesn't even need a real wooden katana, he kicks ass with a stick.
  • Write Back to the Future: the trunk in book 4.
  • Villainous BSoD: Dr. L when he realizes Pietro is still alive.

Alternative Title(s): The Name Of This Book Is Secret


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