For various reasons I have read The Abduction, The Accused and The Activist, all about Theodore Boone – the loveliest of 13-year-old almost-lawyers – and all by John Grisham, in the last week. Since I had the opportunity, it was actually quite nice to give in to the urge to read more ‘ in one sitting.’ Which is why I read books 2, 3 and 4 in quick succession.
Theo will not be everyone’s cup of tea, but he certainly suits me. And I will continue giving these books the Aspie label; not because Theo is one (well, not much), but because the sheer orderliness and lack of the unexpected in these books means they are well suited to someone who needs to know what’s what and not be too overwhelmed by surprise.
The Theodore Boone books are full of instructions on how to live life successfully. It’s not all about some nice middle class dream existence in a nice quiet American town, even though it might look like that. Theo is here to set examples of what to do and why and how you can win over the powerful people in your own life, like parents, teachers and policemen. Be polite. Consider not saying the first thing that pops into your head. Work hard to achieve what you want.
It’d be easy to think Theo has it made and that nothing bad will ever happen to this archetypal American hero. Book 1 looked like that, but here bad things happen and Theo needs to work to put things right. He learns, and we learn with him.
In The Abduction his friend April disappears, and while the police search for her, Theo and his friends and his Uncle Ike do it their way. Guess who manages to find April?
The Accused goes much further, because here Theo is the one under scrutiny. Someone is setting him up (we know that), but the police believe he has committed a crime and want to arrest him. Even having two lawyers for parents isn’t enough, or having the support of many friends and influential adults. Theo can visualise his whole future in ruins, if the misunderstanding isn’t cleared up.
He never imagined he’d be disappointed in the law, but in The Activist Theo discovers that people can loose their homes perfectly legally. A bypass is being planned to make his home town safer, but at the expense of people’s houses and the beautiful landscape and the fresh air. There seems to be plenty of money to fund the road building as well as for bribing politicians, while local budgets are slashed and people are losing their jobs.
What’s so nice, and so useful, is the way John Grisham explains how things in life work, as Theo either finds out from his parents, or he already knows and can explain stuff to his peers. If you’re twelve you don’t necessarily understand about taxes, how the law works or what the point of politics is. (Well, perhaps there isn’t one.)
I like that you learn that you can turn to adults with problems and they will be there for you, instead of the way fictional adult characters tend to either go away or die or are plain awful, and always against whatever the young characters need or want.
These books are also a slice of Americana, just the way we would like the US to be. And what’s wrong with that?