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.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Tuesday's Teaser: Journey Into Writing: The Middle

How did you begin your writing career? Was writing a passion from childhood or teen years on? Or did you take it up later in life, as I did?

I've always loved to write, and in an earlier post described that beginning, but then I seemed to take a whole "lifetime" off before I began seriously again.

In July, 2006, I signed up for my first Institute of Children's Literature course, and had a wonderful instructor. The course was terrific, and I learned so much that I didn't know I didn't know! For my first non-fiction assignment, I decided to write a "creative" NF piece about a small part of the Amazon Rainforest. My instructor was very impressed, and told me I should start thinking about writing a NF article for publication. Publication? So soon? I was amazed that she thought I could actually write something publishable after being in the course for only a short time.

I was encouraged, however, so I started looking through guidelines for some of the children's magazines. Nothing came of that effort at the time, however, as I got caught up in the next assignments. When my second NF asignment came up, I went back to the guidelines and saw that a future issue of ODYSSEY was going to be about...get this...POOP! Yes, that's right, all about POOP. The first thing that came to my mind was, of course, horse, poop...and that brought to mind dung beetles. We had dung beetles all over our ranch because they ate the horse poop. So I wrote my assignment about dung beetles ( you have no idea how many different kinds of dung beetles there are...each type eats only a certain kind of poop...and that's probably more than you ever wanted to know about poop and beetles, right?)

Okay, to get back to the point: I wrote the assignment, my instructor made a very observations, and wanted me to make it more factual rather than "creative." I worked on it aside from the assignment, and in doing some Internet research, I came across a great article by an Entymologist from the University of Montana. I decided to send him an email, tell him who I was and what I was doing, and see if he would give me an interview. I figured the worst that could happen was for him to delete the email. But he didn't...he replied, asked me to send him my article and he'd critique it. I did, he was  impressed, gave me an interview, and the article was published in the POOP! issue of ODYSSEY magazine. My first publication! I was thrilled!

When I completed the first ICL course, my instructor recommended that I take the Advanced Novel Writing course. I not only took one, and completed a contemporary novel for Middle Grade girls, but I took a second course, and completed an Historical Fiction taking place in pre-Civil War days for YA boys age 12 to 14. Neither of them has been published yet, but I'm confident that I will find the right agent or publisher in time. Hopefully.

In the meantime, however, I've published several short stories, including one in a children's anthology, and some poetry. The poetry is for adults, however, not for children.

Now, I have a couple of stories that I'm ready to send out, and I'm working on two new novels: one is another historical story, about a traveling carnival, a freak show, a disfigured MC, and a murder, all taking place during the Great Depression; the second is also a murder mystery, but it is a much darker story, taking place in modern times. Both are Young Adult.

My story has come to an end, but not my journey. It continues, for giving up is not an option. This is a road not less traveled, but well traveled, with all the accompanying twists, turns, detours, dead-ends, and potholes, but nevertheless, one which I believe will ultimately lead to my destination.

Are you traveling it with me?

Until next time,
That's a wrap.