Friday, August 12, 2011

Friday's Fare: Review of Theodore Boone:Kid Lawyer

I bought this book some time ago, because John Grisham is one of my favorite authors. My reaction when I had finished reading it was a kind of...hmmm. So I decided to read it again in order to review it.

Theodore Boone is the son of two trial lawyers who have their own firm, in which Theo has his own office. He is in love with the law, and considers himself just a smaller version of a "real" attorney...who will someday take the Bar. He is on a first name basis with the law clerks and bailiffs at the courthouse, since he hangs out there when he's not in school. And when he is in school, all his classmates come to him for legal advice. He also regularly visits one of the prominent judges who hears criminal cases.

At the moment, there is a notorious murder trial going on, at which Judge Gantry is presiding. Theo talks to him about the trial, and although Grisham is careful not to let the judge say anything prejudicial or reveal any legal thoughts or opinions, in real life, a thirteen year old kid would not be allowed in to the office of a presently sitting judge, most especially one who is hearing a murder case.

During the murder trial, a friend of Theo's tells him privately that his cousin, who is an illegal alien, has some key evidence that will definitely prove the suspect in this case is guilty. However, the boy is afraid to come forward to the authorities because of his immigration status. Now Theo has a moral dilemma: how to get this evidence before the judge, and not rat out his friend's cousin. Things become especially serious when it looks like the defendent is going to walk out a free man, because there is not enough evidence to convict him...unless Theo comes forward. Which he finally does, but not until he brings  his parents, uncle, and Judge Gantry in on the whole problem. Once he does that, the adults work together with him to solve the problem of key evidence and illegal alien. The ending is flat, without interest, conviction of the defendent is left up in the air...or...up to being solved in the sequel that is sure to come.

John Grisham is a master storyteller, but perhaps he should review some of the really good books written specifically for MG/YA by MG/YA authors. This book drags. It takes 50 pages to get to the first court scene, and from then on, nothing spectacular happens. Unfortunately, nothing spectacular has happened prior to that, either.  It is a wandering discourse on criminal law, with Theo sounding just a little too much like an encyclopedia on law.

Theo is too perfect, so much so he got on my nerves with my second reading, and he is a one-dimensional character, as are all the characters in this book. It is totally unrealistic, for one might talk to him about some small problem they are having, but to have him actually go to court in their behalf ( so okay, it was only Animal Court, but still...) and speak as their "attorney" is more than a little far-fetched. When one of his teachers asks him for legal advice, suspension of disbelief goes down the drain!

There is almost no action in this book, merely a series of conversations that lead...I could say, nowhere, but I guess ultimately they lead to the conclusion of the story...such as it is. There is no suspense, no mystery ( shame on you, John!), no danger, a predictible conclusion which isn't really a conclusion at all, because the murder defendent walks out of the courthouse, supposedly with a new trial hanging over his head...but is it really?

My first reading of this book was indecisive, my second read unsatisfactory. The sequel is on its way, but now I'm dreading having to read it! I'm afraid it's going to be more of the same. I wanted and expected Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer to be the kind of legal thriller...only kid style...that John Grisham usually writes. It wasn't. I am disappointed.

Until next time,
That's a wrap.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Wednesday's Wandering: Why Do You Blog?

Everyone talks about how having a blog and being on Facebook or Twitter are important for "building a social presence." It's important to have something about yourself "out there" for the roaming agent or editor to find.

Recently I've been researching agents, and I've come across a couple of interesting remarks from interviews with certain agents. I'm going to share them, and I hope you'll tell me what you think.

The first was a contradiction of much I've read. This agent said that she had never understood why writers put blogs up when they had nothing particularly interesting to say. (Wow, that's kinda a slap in the face, right?) She went on to say that most of the agents she knew were far too busy to go around "surfing" the Internet in the off chance they would find the blog, or Facebook/Twitter page, of a writer whom they would be interested in representing; she said that when she read a query that excited her enough to ask for a partial, she was far more interested in reading the partial, perhaps asking for a full, and then TALKING to the writer, than she was in wasting her time reading a blog. She claimed that most blogs were full of posts unrelated to writing, and that often they were simply full of the writer's life, her/his kids and their activities, etc., and she didn't care to waste her time on them.


The second interview was more enlightening. This agent said that she often went to a writer's blog, but that it was only after reading a query, she didn't have the time to "surf" for writers nor did she know of any agent who did have that kind of time. She said that when she read a query that interested her, even if she didn't ask for a partial, she would go to the writer's blog...but not Facebook or Twitter...just to see what the writer offered.

"Offered." That's when this interview became interesting. She asked, What does the writer offer on her blog? Does she post about different elements in writing, offering help or suggestions to other writers? Does she offer other blogs and websites which are specific to writers?  Does she do reviews of books written in her genre or in the genres of writers she knows?  What research resources does she post for the benefit of others, especially if she writes non-fiction? Or...does she blog just about the everyday happenings in her life?

She went on to say that she liked to see blogs that were open to comments, and that possibly had a page for a discussion about some particular post. What she didn't say, however, was what effect the blogs she looked at had on her in terms of offering representation, and I was disappointed in that. Did they change her mind about repping that particular writer, either in a positive or negative way? And if so, why? But she didn't go any further with her comments.

These two interviews were taken a couple of years ago, and I was also disappointed to find out from Query Tracker that the second agent had retired at the end of 2009.

My point today is to ask, what do you blog about, and why? Do you post a lot about your personal life and what you do, do you post about current events and ask for opinions or a discussion, or do you post different things that you hope will be beneficial to other writers? Or do you post something entirely different from the above?

There are many blogs, both of writers I know and those I don't, that I find interesting, entertaining, and of value. There are some I've read that are pretty boring, to be truthful. As a retired teacher, I guess I'm never really through with teaching, and I post a lot of things that I've learned throughout this writing journey that I hope will be of help and some value to those who read them. I'm not one for posting a lot about my personal life, although I've started an on-going "edition" ( or whatever you want to call it!) about my own writing journey. I truly hope that my posts...hmm, well, most of them anyway!...are not boring!

But YOU? Why do you blog? What do you blog about? Do you like posts about different elements of writing, and think you might  find a bit of a gem that you didn't know before, or do you prefer those blogs that are mostly personal in nature? How many different things do you usually post about, and do you have "themes" for your posts? Is there anything in particular you would like to see on this blog?

Let me know what you think.

Until next time,
That's a wrap.