My rating: 3 of 5 stars
After storming the best-seller charts for adult fiction, John Grisham tries his hand at fiction for young adults. And the results are fairly mixed.
It seems a lot of young adult fiction I read these days paints the protagonist as the lovable loner–whether by choice or because of the society within the halls of school. Theodore Boone is no exception. He’s an eighth grader who loves the law and dreams of becoming a lawyer some day. His parents are partners in a successful firm in his town, with his father working real estate law and his mother a divorce lawyer. And now his small town faces its first big trial in years–a murder trial of a man accused of killing his wife after taking out a huge insurance policy on her.
To Theo, this is even more exciting than his beloved Minnesota Twins making it to and winning the World Series. Theo is wrapped up in following the trial, even getting his government class prime seats for the opening day to go and observe the trial.
Theo also offers legal advice to friends at school, including to a cute girl whose dog has been picked up by animal control. In the course of his working with his parents at a local mission, Theo meets a boy who may just have a vital witness to the crime and the murder trail that he’s obsessed with. The only problem–said witness is an illegal immigrant and is scared to come forward for fear of being deported.
“Theodore Boone, Kid Lawyer” has its moments of entertainment. Grisham clearly is setting up Theo to come back in future installments and maybe they’ll move a bit quicker now that the burden of establishing the characters and the situation is complete. The dilemma Theo faces (whether to tell the truth of what he knows) is an interesting one, though there’s very little doubt what choice he’ll make.
As a legal thriller for young adults, it works fairly well. It lacks the complexity of your standard Grisham thriller. If you’ve read his adult books, it will feel like a lighter version of those. If Grisham hopes to win over younger fans and have them eventually move on to reading more of his adult titles as they grow up, that’s not a bad thing. (Anything to get young adults reading something other than “Twilight” is a great idea). However, younger readers may have the same reaction I did when it comes to the ending–it feels a bit rushed and unsatisfying. It dropped the book down a star in my rating. I found myself thinking it was a lot of set-up for a second installment.