Home > Book, Book Review, Children, Reviews, Young Adult > Book Review – ‘Theodore Boone Kid Lawyer’ by John Grisham

Book Review – ‘Theodore Boone Kid Lawyer’ by John Grisham

Book Description:

A perfect murder, A faceless witness, A lone courtroom champion knows the whole truth . . . and he’s only thirteen years old . . . Meet Theodore Boone

In the small city of Strattenburg, there are many lawyers, and though he’s only thirteen years old, Theo Boone thinks he’s one of them. Theo knows every judge, policeman, court clerk — and a lot about the law. He dreams of being a great trial lawyer, of a life in the courtroom.

But Theo finds himself in court much sooner than expected. Because he knows so much — maybe too much — he is suddenly dragged into the middle of a sensational murder trial. A cold-blooded killer is about to go free, and only Theo knows the truth.

The stakes are high, but Theo won’t stop until justice is served.

John Grisham jumps into the very lucrative children/ young adult market with Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer. How did he do? I’d say he did just okay – not something to get excited about however. If he wants Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer to be a successful series (and given how this book ends abruptly as a set up for a sequel, I’d say that’s what he & his publisher is gearing up for), he’s gotta up the stakes. I’m pretty sure people will check this novel out for their kids just on the strength of John Grisham’s name, but I’m guessing there will be some disappointed people out there. But then, parents have to realize that the intended audience for this novel are children – and from the tone of it – I’d guess the pre-teen market. This means that nothing too scary or exciting happens, and a lot of pages are spent explaining concepts and terms.

Theodore Boone is a 13-year-old kid who is obsessed with the law (the way other kids might be about playing video games or baseball) and he wants to either be a trial lawyer or a judge when he grows up. In the meantime, his favorite hangout place is the local courthouse (where he counts the judge as a personal friend) and the most exciting thing in his life is a murder trial that he follows (as closely as another kid might follow a Lakers season or one of those cartoon series running on Nickelodeon).

Theo may not be a real lawyer (yet), but school friends approach him for ‘legal’ advise all the time & he’s called up by his teacher to explain legal concepts to the other students too. Personally, I think this is where John Grisham shines. Using Theo as his voice, he simplifies and breaks down difficult legal terms for his readers and walks us through a criminal trial, explains what the prosecution or defense does, and with the minor ‘cases’ that Theo handles for his friends, things like ‘foreclosure’, ‘bankruptcy’, ‘Animal court’ are explained very simply but thoroughly. I think the book would be a great starting off point for parents or teachers to discuss with kids – like the concept of ‘innocent until proven guilty’ for example.

Things start to get a little exciting for Theo when he learns about a possible surprise witness to the murder trial he is following. Theo is sworn to secrecy, but how can he in all conscience keep quiet while a cold-blooded killer might go free? I thought this was another thing that John Grisham handled well – how Theo was able to keep his promise while enlisting necessary adult (i.e. his uncle & parents) help.

The novel does come across as dated to me – there are elements that remind you that you are in present day America (i.e. Theo uses his laptop, hacks into websites, uses email, the witness is an illegal alien, etc) – but most of the time, it felt like the setting was sometime in the past – a more innocent era where a young kid is free to roam the city with his bike, and the characters (Theo and his parents) come across as idealized and a bit too-good-to-be-real. And like I said earlier, nothing too scary happens, so some kids who expect action ala Harry Potter may find it a boring read. Maybe, John Grisham should’ve broken it up into shorter segments or short stories – kinda like the Encyclopedia Brown: Boy Detective series.

But like I said, the book can be a good start-off point for conversations between kids and their parents or teachers. I wouldn’t write off John Grisham, children’s book writer, just yet.

‘Theodore Boone Kid Lawyer’ is available on Amazon as a Hardcover ($9.00), and Audio CD ($13.57). Surprisingly, there is no Kindle version. Over on Barnes & Noble, the hardcover goes for $9.34.

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