Friday, August 19, 2011

Friday's Fare: Review of Theodore Boone: The Abduction

Theodore Boone: the Abduction is the second in John Grisham's series about a thirteen year-old boy-turned-lawyer...almost. Theo is the son of two attorneys and has grown up with the law. He fully expects to become a trial lawyer and then quite probably a famous judge when he is out of school. In the meantime, he tries dilegently to solve all the "legal" problems his friends and classmates have. He knows every attorney, law clerk, bailiff, and most of the judges in the town where he lives, and spends as much time as he can get away with in the courtroom when a trial is going on.

But all this knowledge doesn't help him one bit when his best friend, April Finnemore, disappears in the middle of the night. She is not the kind of kid to run away...the whole town agrees on this. But the house shows no signs of break-in, which means either she has run away, or she knows the person who took her, and let him in the house while she was alone.

Theo knows more about April than most anyone else: her father is an aging, wannabee rock star who is always off somewhere with the scudsy band he plays with, made up of other aging, drug-using wannabees who can't manage to score gigs in anything but seedy bars and run-down dance halls; her mother is very often not at home, as she wasn't on the night April went missing, she takes pills for everything that could possibly ail her, and April thinks she is losing her mind.

None of this matters when Jake Leeper appears on the scene. Jake is a convicted long-time criminal who has escaped from prison, and shows up in the small town of Strattenburg. When it comes to light that April had become his "pen pal" while he was in prison...why, no one knows...the police forget about anything but Jake and, when he is captured, making him tell them what he did to April. They are convinced he kidnapped her, but have no evidence of any kind to back that assumption up.

However, Theo is determined to find April himself, or find out what happened to her, so he and his next-best friend, Chase, take it upon themselves to, first of all, find April's father.  Once again, Theo goes to his Uncle Ike for help. Ike has gotten a note from someone who claims the band April's father is in, Plunder, is down in Raleigh, North Carolina, playing in bad bars and for college frat houses.

Theo and Chase begin tracking down all the fraternities and sororities in North Carolina on the Internet, calling the most likely ones, and finally track Plunder down to one location. Through much subterfuge and not-quite-little-white-lies, Theo gets Ike to "borrow" one of the family cars, while Theo's parents are out of town, and the two of them race to North Carolina, find the fraternity where the band is, find April who has run away, all right, but with her father and without her mother's knowledge, and bring April home.

To wind the story up: Jake Leeper is returned to prison, April's father and mother both promise to enter counseling and rehab, Theo's mother becomes April's temporary guardian until something either positive or negative happens with her family, and Theo is once again the hero of the day for finding April.

Okay. Once again Grisham has failed to write a convincing Middle Grade novel. Kids may like it, that's true, but from my perspective as a Middle Grade author, it fails miserably in many ways. Theo relies too heavily upon adults to help him, either with the solution to the problem, or help in carrying out the solution. His parents, Ike, and of course, Judge Gantry, are always heavily endowed as secondary characters.

The story drags. There is far too much dialogue that doesn't go anywhere, and that is more often between the adults in the story than between Theo and any other kid. There are pages and pages devoted to the police detectives, Slater and Capshaw, and their interrogations of Jake Leeper, and in which there is no Theo to be seen or heard from. Chapter Seven, for example, is a 10 and 1/2 page chapter that is devoted almost entirely to an interrogation of Leeper, with only the first 3 1/2 pages having anything to do with Theo, and in that, no action, no dialogue, just narration.

All in all, this story bored me as much as the first one. There is no real mystery, no danger, no excitement, and certainly NO suspense, because the reader already knows that Theo is going to save the day, BUT with the help of the adults.

Most people reading this, after reading the first in the series, Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer, would have assumed ( at least, I did) that it was a sequel to the first, but it's not. However, on the very last page, a reference was made to the first story, wherein a murder trial ended in a mistrial, again thanks to Theo with the help of adults. This time, Theo's friend, Judge Gantry, told him that a new trial had been set for Pete Duffy ( the defendent in the first story). So obviously, there will be a third book in this series.

Mr. Grisham, you have once again disappointed me. I DO wish you would read up on middle grade stories by "real" middle grade authors! I'm not at all sure I will be reading anything more about Theodore Boone. I LOVE your books...but only when they are for adult readers.

Until next time,
That's a wrap.


  1. It's interesting that such a talented author could get it so wrong. Makes you wonder if he thought writing for kids should be easier, so he didn't give it his all, or what?

    I just received a mailer about a new MG book that Richard Paul Evans has coming out. Again, he's been so successful at what he's become known for, you've gotta wonder how he's going to fare with a younger audience. I hope he makes the transition more successfully than Mr. Grisham has.

  2. I think a lot of mystery authors use the same characters with different mysteries that aren't related to each other so they are complete stand alones. Your review is very interesting. I almost picked up a Theodore Boone book the other day, but I decided my TBR pile needs to decrease a bit first. Now, I'm thinking I'll stick to the Sammy Keyes series.