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What else can a boy ask for? Yes, I know that is sexual stereotyping - but the fact is, most boys do prefer a different type of book to the average girl. I believe girls would be more likely to want a more complex plot, character development and so on, while boys are happy enough with a good shoot em up. That said the storyline on this graphic novel is actually not too bad. It's simple, but it does provide some real food for thought.
The story begins with shoot em up right in the middle of a dirt bike race. The Hardy Boys - Frank and Joe, not only win the race but hand the crooks over to local law enforcement, who advises them not to get involved in amateur investigations. I'm afraid this really doesn't have much bearing on the rest of the story, but it does work in an extra gunfight and motorbikes as well. It also allows a brief opening for the fact that Joe and Frank belong to a secret organisation " American Teens Against Crime".
The real story begins with their next assignment. It seems zombie crawls have become a popular form of entertainment for Bayport teens. They dress up as the undead and stumble about like extras in a b movie. It's a chance to get out and meet other youths and have a bit fun - but something has been going wrong at these zombie crawls. Is something turning Bayport's teens into real zombies? There have been a number of accidents in which teens report having no control of their own actions? Is it Mob hysteria or something more sinister? Joe and Frank are sent in to investigate.
If you are looking for a zombie novel along the lines of "The Walking Dead", do not even consider this book. This has more in common with Scooby Doo than with any living dead stories. Many Hardy Boys stories will start out with something that might be supernatural, but there is always a logical explanation. These are junior detective stories, not horror stories.
This book is listed as having 64 pages. The story itself does not start until page 5 though, and the last 10 pages are advertisements for other books in this series and a sneak peak and a Nancy Drew story. This leaves only 49 pages for story development, and again, we have the motorbike race/ shootout before the main story begins. Couple this with the fact that this a graphic novel - so a large part of the book is illustration, and there is not a great deal of space for plot development. There is no character development really, but then many readers will already be familiar with the crime fighting duo from previous books.
Still, for such a short book, the story line is very good in my opinion. Worked into the story is a bit on exclusion, and this may help children to realise that another child who is simply left out, or ignored , may suffer every bit as much as a child who is actively bullied. This is really a good talking point for parents and children, and if your child attends school it might be worth discussing if they ever feel like this, or perhaps know someone who does.
The graphics in this book are good, but not brilliant. I would not class them as works of art, as some graphic novels really are now, but then many of these are now priced out of reach for the average child. I would describe the illustration as a sort of cross between the old fashioned comics I grew up with and the more modern children's manga.
I remember the original Hardy Boys stories, and in all honesty, I found this book a disappointment in comparison. But then, in all fairness, I am comparing apples to oranges. This book does not have the space to really develop a good mystery. It is more action and adventure than whodunnit. There are many graphic novels out now that appeal to adults as much as children, or are even written specifically for adults. This is not one of them. This is very much a child's book and I would recommend this for ages 6 -12. I caution parents, that there is a bit more violence in this than in the old Hardy Boys book and there is one actual death. This is not especially graphic or gory, but if you prefer non violent books for young children, I would advise you to pass this book up.
Of course it is not my opinion that counts. This book was purchased for my oldest son, who was age 6 at the time. He did really enjoy this book, and wanted another in the series. Unfortunately, he wasn't quite as fond of the next book, but he did still enjoy this one. He is going through a stage of experimenting with many different graphic novels and trying to find the ones that suit him best. This book does not compare with James Bond or Alex Ryder for my son. It is a fun book though, which he has read a number of times, and it only costs £4.29 new from Amazon or £4.08 from Amazon Marketplace. I'm afraid used books actually cost more, so in this case we went for new. I feel that this is a good book, and I am happy enough that he has read it on his own a number of times. I have asked if he wants any more Hardy Boys books and he says he would like them, but there are other books he wants much more ( superheroes and spies). I feel that 4 stars is a fair rating based on his opinion of this book.
If anyone is considering buying books from this series - please note that Papercutz have two separate Hardy Boys series. One series has 64 pages and the other has 96 pages. I was hoping for more story development in the longer series, and perhaps we just chose the wrong book, but the one we chose had less of a storyline stretched out over many more pages. If I buy another book, I will go with the shorter series.