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Do not take this one on your next holiday.
Cherub: The Sleepwalker - Robert Muchamore
Member Name: broxi3781
Cherub: The Sleepwalker - Robert Muchamore
Advantages: An enjoyable story from an exceptionally good series.
Disadvantages: A bit slow to start, very graphic description of air plane deaths.
I happen to have just been at the wrong place at the wrong time to have witnessed a horrific airplane crash many years ago. Beyond feeling very sorry for those on board though, it hasn't affected me. I have no fear of flying and my sons are completely taken with the airplane bug. All the same, I don't think I would want to them to read this at a very young age, and I don't think it would make the most comfortable reading material for a holiday flight. And while I still have no fear of flying, this book did upset me, as I will explain shortly.
The book opens with a family flying home after a short break/ Christmas shopping trip to New York. The group consists of two children, their mother and their grandmother. There flight is interrupted by a horrific bang as the plane goes into a roll. The pilot regains control, but it soon becomes obvious the plane will not make it to land, the pilot must attempt and a blue water landing, or water ditching of the craft. I'm afraid both of these sound somewhat nicer than the reality. Airliners do not "land" at sea, a more accurate term is crash, but that is just not what you want to hear halfway across the Atlantic. The passengers go through the motions of putting life vests - but the thirteen year old boy knows this is in vain. He puts it on to please Mom, while quoting from the Discovery Channel that there has never been a successful " landing" at sea by a large air craft. He writes his father a farewell note, sealing it in a plastic bag and his sister rushes to do the same. The Grandmother prays, and the Mother attempts to reassure her children that they will survive this. Rescue vehicles will be sent and they will be plucked from the sea. I don't think she believes it, and the children certainly do not, but a mother wants to limit the terror before the inevitable if she can. The jet hits the water at high speed and is ripped apart on impact. The description of the deaths is especially graphic, and not unlike what one would expect in certain times of road accident fatalities, something which has hit close to home for me, so this did affect me to some extent. Did I mention this is children's book?
The Sleepwalker is part of Robert Muchamore's CHERUB series. I have reviewed so many of these books that I feel I must limit the description of the series overall, or risk boring any readers to death with repetition. In short, this is a series about children acting as spies or secret agents, along the lines of the Young James Bond series, or Alex Rider, but I feel that this series is better suited to an older audience. It does have a large number of adult readers, myself included, as well as being extremely popular with teens, but it also clearly states that the books are "Not Suitable for Younger Readers", and they have actually been banned by a number of schools. I'm not one for banning books - but I will strongly assert that parental discretion is advised. In addition to violence, there is strong language, underage drinking, some mildly sexual situations, and in this particular book, domestic violence and child abuse.
After the plane crash which has just been described, a frantic call is made to an emergency hot line, with a terrified child stating that he things his father is involved. The child is clearly upset but then says never mind it's a hoax before hanging up. The fact that the boy is Islamic, and while his family has no known terrorist connections, his father is on an American no fly list make the story worth investigating, but the child is also known to have some psychological issues. CHERUB agents Lauren Adams and Jake Parker are sent in to befriend and gain information from the child in question, Fahim Bin Hassam.
I have really enjoyed all of Muchamore's books, and I did enjoy this one as well. This is book 9 in the series and after so many books the characters have become familiar. I suppose it is the literary equivalent of a soap in some ways, you tune in to catch up with the lives of characters you have come to know. This book does have quite a lot on the main character, but in a sense the mission almost seems an after thought. Once again a large section of the book is just life on campus for the teens. The mission itself doesn't begin until page 154, and the main character of this series, James Adams, isn't even on the mission. If however, you are a new comer to this series, you are apt to be lost in all the intermingling relationships, and it might be very difficult to get into this book.
Once it gets started this book does have plenty of action, but it is slower to start off than most books in this series, and I feel this could be an issue for the target audience, young boys, who are also apt to be uninterested in the side line of domestic violence running through this. Because of this slower start, I have knocked this book down by one star, but I did still enjoy it, and I am glad I bought it.
This book does have a wonderful twist, which really shows the creative mind of the author. He has clearly led us to jump to conclusions, and even with this slight warning, I can not see anyone failing to reach the same incorrect conclusion I did. This one twist almost brought this book back up to 5 stars, but not quite. It does make this well worth reading though and makes a bit of a statement as well.
I am a huge fan of this author in general, and I would recommend this series. It is intended for teens but I feel this book has a lot to offer adults as well. There has been some controversy with this series, but overall I feel it is a very positive influence for young readers. There is some very mature subject matter though, and I feel the airplane crash description could make a young child frightened to fly. I won't put a specific age range on this, but I will repeat my warning that parental discretion is advised for preteens. Finally, if you have lost a family member from certain types of vehicular accidents, you may find this description upsetting as well.
Summary: Slow to start but worth the wait.