Theodore Boone John Grisham, Hodder & Stoughton, [NZ agents: Hachette] 263 pages, paperback, NZ$38.99ISBN 978-1-444-71449-4
“Most of all Theo, loved the courtrooms themselves…where lawyers battled like gladiators and judges ruled like kings.”
If John Grisham was to write a young adult novel, it was inevitable that it would be about the law. Inevitable also that there would be an adult-jacketed version, with a discreet title, for Grisham fans of mature years. (The Young Adult version carries the full title Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer, and has its own website at theodoreboone.com.)
Theo (both of whose parents are lawyers) is only 13 but already deeply involved in the legal affairs of his home town. He even has his own ‘law office’ in his parents’ law firm, giving advice to his fellow students. Theo’s familiarity with the courts leads to his class attending a murder trial, while his willingness to give legal advice puts him in a difficult, perhaps dangerous situation. It also entangles him in the court case.
Theo is a pleasant lad but other characters are lightly-sketched, while an all-seeing narrator tells readers what to think. For example, a sinister figure dominates the story. ‘Theo had heard Omar Cheepe described as “an armed thug” and a “man who enjoyed breaking the law.”’ Yet Cheepe does nothing more than look at people and Theo never even meets him. The problem seems to be that Grisham’s original plot has been cut apart to provide the inevitable sequel
Although it will be enjoyed by adults, Theodore Boone is not up to the standard of young adult novels.
This review first appeared in Your Weekend Magazine (Fairfax) on Saturday 24th July 2010.