The Recruit by Robert Muchamore (CHERUB #1)
Publication (US): Simon Pulse (2005), Mass Market Paperback, 352 pages / ISBN 068987779X
Genre: Children’s, Thriller, Action
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I wasn’t expecting much when I picked this up at the last FOTL book sale, but I was pleasantly surprised at how much fun I had reading it. I actually blazed through it in about six hours (including dinner breaks, etc), and I’m even looking forward to reading the next nine books in the series.
The Recruit is about a kid named James who get into trouble often and is on his way to a life of crime and jail time. Then, when his mother dies, James is recruited to a subsection of MI5: CHERUB, where the agents are all 17 and under. They go where adult agents can’t, get in where adults would only be barred, and James isn’t sure he can do it. But all he has to do is pass basic training and then he’ll be CHERUB’s newest agent– except he might die trying.
Generally I find stories involving kids as secret agents (and being employed by adults) to be at the very least morally suspect, but then again I really enjoy reading about kids being better or smarter at something than adults. So once I got over my squiggly insides, I enjoyed reading about the kids in CHERUB. The characters, especially James, were incredibly realistic, especially James’ self-absorbedness and willingness to beat up other kids. He really did seem like my younger brother or something, at yet he was mature and responsible enough to convince me that he’d be a good CHERUB agent. I will say that he didn’t change a whole lot throughout the course of the books, which is something that I nearly always expect in a coming of age story, but it’s only the first book and I expect James will do a lot of growing up as he takes on more missions and things.
The story itself was a lot of fun, and Muchamore’s writing was unobtrusive and just right for this kind of book. I do have a few niggles, though: there was one part where the POV switched from James to Kerry, and another sentence that seemed to be describing James from outside of himself (“James seemed annoyed.”). The ending sequence felt a bit rushed compared to the rest of the book, but it introduced some more interesting characters (like Ewart, the agent with a tongue ring) and did its job of forcing James to make some tough decisions and actually start thinking about other people than himself. And finally, I found two typos– but that’s tiny, really.
Overall, I thought this was an excellent first book for both a series and an author. I am going to track down the rest of the series and hopefully devour it with as much gusto as I did The Recruit.
Recommended for: teenage/youngerish boys AND girls (10-15, maybe?), James Bond fans, kids-as-spies nuts.