Newest Review: ... high - which makes it very unlikely that MI -5 would send any British agents much less children, especially into a situation w... more
Cherub book 3
Cherub: Maximum Security - Robert Muchamore
Member Name: broxi3781
Cherub: Maximum Security - Robert Muchamore
Advantages: Discusses real issues in a postive manner + a great story.
Disadvantages: Realistic image of teens has caused some offence.
Maximum Security is the third books in Robert Muchamore's popular Cherub series. This series is intended for teenage boys, and I can certainly the appeal, but it has a very large following of adult readers as well, and as much as it has surprised me, I have really taken to this series, planning to start on book 4 tonight, with books 5 and 6 already ordered.
As I have mentioned previously, the both the CHERUB series, and Muchamore's Henderson's Boys series are all built around a very implausible idea - children being used in spies by the British government. The Henderson's Boys series sees the children originally brought in by accident, and a small group of children with little left to lose involved in the conflict in occupied France. This series however has a huge campus with hundreds of unwanted children trained to take part in deadly missions around the globe. The whole idea is completely impossible - but then so are many popular story lines today. At least there are no flying broomsticks, romantic vampires, or even zombies. Once you get past the impossibility of such an organisation existing the stories are very good, and for the most part quite believable.
I did find this the least plausible storyline so far. In this case James, his younger sister Lauren, and another CHERUB agent are loaned out the the FBI. The boys are placed in a maximum security prison for children in the Arizona desert in the hopes that they can befriend another inmate, and use him to get to his arms smuggling mother. Lauren is only 10 years of age and is meant to be involved in helping the boys escape. One the escape is reported, all of Arizona's police will be looking for armed and dangerous children, with justification to use deadly force if necessary. The risk to the children is exceptionally high - which makes it very unlikely that MI -5 would send any British agents much less children, especially into a situation where the British have no jurisdiction, and very little excuse for involvement.
I also felt the story was a bit rushed. The main events all take place in a matter of only a few days. In reality government agents spend years cracking a case, and successfully infiltrating such a security conscious group often involves being undercover for years. CHERUB cases, just like all the good crime show cases on telly always end up solved very quickly. After all we can't have our child agents grow to old for the role after only one or two cases. These two complaints very nearly brought my rating down to 4 stars on this book. But the fact remains that I am not the target audience, whom I think will be less likely to nitpick and more likely to just enjoy the story. And even with my complaints. I still had a very hard time putting this book down. It is a fast moving story with a more than enough action and adventure and very strong well developed characters.
I have always liked the fact that Muchamore often blurs the line between the good guys and the bad. The villains are usually not totally evil. Sometimes it is hard to decide if a character is meant to be a villain, or just a person with difficulties. It is easy to feel empathy for most of the characters. There are a few though, who should be the good guys, in this case guards entrusted with the care of children, who are every bit as bad - if not worse than the inmates they watch over. In particular, the character of Curtis, whom James is sent to befriend is a troubled soul. But he has committed some pretty horrific crimes and can at times act without any trace of compassion or remorse. I do not believe this book was written with the intention of making a political statement. All the same it is impossible to write about something so controversial as the circumstances that these children are kept in without leaving the reader wondering at system that allows this.
Another aspect I liked about the book is that the children do not have a raft of top secret gadgets. They do end up with a glock at one point, and the gun is described in detail. I think boys will enjoy reading about the various weaponry, but it is not top secret spy gear. The children succeed or fail, based on their wits and courage. While there is obviously a great market for fantasy and magic - many young readers do prefer something just a bit more realistic, and aside from he idea of children being used in such a manner, Muchamore never stretched the realms of possibility too much.
Because this book is a long series, it also deals with the development of friendships and relationships between the children which carry on from one book to the next. These friendships face tests and tribulations which many children will have to deal with at some point in their lives and handles them, in what I feel is very positive manner. James' continuing struggles to deal with his best friend coming out are finally laid to rest - in an especially funny and confident manner.
The first book in this series started out with the main character only 12. James Adams is still only 13, but developing an interest in girls which at times is less than polite. I feel this is completely in keeping with normal behaviour for boys at this age, but I understand it has caused some offence, and this series has been pulled from some American school libraries. I will point out that at least at this point in this series, there is nothing in this that would cause me to keep my 7 year old from reading this, but we each have our own standards for such things. There is some bad language as well, although I considered it both limited and quite mild. There is fairly graphic violence, and extreme cruelty though with children as the victims in some cases. The back of this book is clearly stamped " Not suitable for younger children". I do expect this series will become less suitable as it goes along, but at the moment, there is nothing I find too upsetting. There are themes that some parents mat take offence at though, including reference to teenage pregnancy ( although no mention is made of how this occurred). Drug abuse doesn't really come into this one, but peer pressure does, and in it's most ugly form.
I believe Muchamore's strong point is that he writes about teenagers as they really are. This does include violence, swearing, and some issues parents might rather never come up. But I think the fact that he does create realistic characters is what makes children want to read his books, and I'd hate to see his writing style change to satisfy the critics. True, I have found his earlier series inappropriate for my own son, but my child is only 7. I have a very different standard on how much "adult" material should be allowed into a book for a 7 year old than I would with a 12 year old. Ultmiately though, if any of these topics concern you - get the book and read it before giving it to your child - or at least read it as well so that you can discuss any topics you find controversial. I would point out though, unless your child is both home educated and very isolated from other children his age, there isn't anything at all here the average 10 year old does not know about. I would have no problem with a younget child reading this, but I don't really think it will appeal to children under age 10 -12, depending on the child. The reading level is adult, so this would not be suitable for a developing reader.
Summary: Excellent book for older children.