Saturday, June 16, 2007

The Recruit

The Recruit (Cherub), by Robert Muchamore
$6.99 at Amazon.com
ISBN: 068987779X
This is the first book in a promising new series. Fans of the Hardy Boys or other easy-to-read crime books will enjoy it, especially since it has a little more edge than most of us are used to in "teen" fiction. Here's the story:
James is raised in the bad part of London by his criminal mother and scumbag stepfather. When he is orphaned during the first few chapters, he's taken into an institution to be raised by the state until his talent for math is discovered. He's offered a position with CHERUB, an organization that trains kids ages 10-17 as spies. Now, I realize this sounds absurd, and it is; but after all it's just a diverting kids' story. The line of reasoning is that people are less suspicious of kids as spies, that young people were indeed used as operatives during the World Wars, and that they're never put into situations which are truly dangerous.
Once you've accepted this, the rest of the story is a treat. For one thing, James gets into a lot of trouble in spy school. He's not one of the wholesome Hardy Boys. He gets drunk, ransacks a house, and steals thousands in cash from his late mother's safe before the police (or his stepfather) arrives. In fact, he punches a classmate in the very first scene. This is the bad-boy of the twelve-year-old spy set.
The training compound where the kiddies are trained is very interesting, and Muchamore describes in in thrilling detail. Techno-junkies will enjoy how computers monitor virtually every aspect of a young recruit's life. The program also sounds pretty intense. It starts off mild: James has to learn to swim. By the end he's being dropped of in Malaysia to find his way back through leech infested waters. Sound exciting? I was pretty glued to the page.
It's not a perfect book, and will certainly never be considered "great literature" by any standard. Still, I found it was exciting and a lot of fun. It was satisfying to see James keep playing by his own rules, to some extent, all through the book. He was never totally institutionalized. There's a whole series of Cherub books after this one, if you enjoy it. This would make a great gift for a kid interested in 007 and such, but also fun for an adult who's just looking for something light and fast-paced. Enjoy!

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