Book Reviews

Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer by John Grisham

June 21, 2010

7 of 10: Look, Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer isn’t bad – it’s an easy read and it kept me interested, but, oh, why couldn’t it have just been a stand alone book? And why couldn’t Theo been just a little less annoying?

I read my first John Grisham book the week after Shepard died. I remember so clearly sitting in the living room, getting lost in the world of The Client and being so glad to be completely sucked into a different world for a while. Our silent reading in my English class had to be by American authors and I read probably half a dozen Grisham books between November and June. All of which is to say, I’m a John Grisham fan.

So, I went in to this book expecting to like it.

And I did. I promise! I kept picking it up and discovering I’d just knocked out another 50 pages, but it never quite went anywhere.

Theodore Boone is thirteen and obsessed with the law. Both his parents are lawyers (but the boring kind, in Theo’s mind – his mom is a divorce lawyer and his dad is a real estate lawyer) and that’s what Theo wants to be too. He loves the court room and knows all the judges, the lawyers, and the bailiffs. He reads about the law and offers legal advice to his peers.

So, clearly it’s the highlight of Theo’s life when a murder trial comes up in his town. It’s pretty much the biggest trial in the town’s history and Theo can’t stop thinking about it. A woman has been murdered in her home and it’s widely suspected that her husband was the murderer, since she had a $1 million life insurance policy and her husband’s business was in some serious trouble.

But there are no witnesses and as the trial begins, it seems unlikely that there will be enough evidence to convict the husband. There is simply no evidence that he was the killer.

Except then a previously unknown witness approaches Theo and offers new insight into the case, but refuses to testify because of some other circumstances that I won’t spoil here (because, really, there’s so little left to the plot, I might as well leave you SOMETHING). Now Theo, who is sworn to silence by the witness, has to figure out what to do. Does he tell? Does he not? And if he does tell, who is he going to tell?

Remember when I said recently that a memoir is only as appealing as the narrator? This book suffers a little because I just don’t think Theo is that likable. He’s a nice enough kid, for the most part, but he’s so ludicrously precocious I kind of wanted to die. A thirteen year old dispensing legal advice to adults? Um, I can’t really buy that. He just was so un-thirteen year old boy like.  I don’t necessarily think kids will really latch on to him (but then, I loved Nancy Drew and the girl wore PUMPS for crying out loud, so, you know, who really can say?)

Another thing – I am the world’s biggest wimp, but I do admit that I secretly love that John Grisham’s books usually scare me to death. It’s been about nine years since I read The Firm but I still remember clearly how delightfully freaked out I was by the surveillance and the stalking and the threats and the running from scary men. I could hardly sleep and I SHARED A ROOM with my sister. This book? Has one possibly-baddish guy giving Theo a silent stare at the end. I am not even joking. That’s it.

There are also these random side stories that appear to have nothing to do with anything and that always annoys me. Do not waste my time with pointless detours.

And, really, is it absolutely impossible to write a stand-alone book these days? Is that asking so much? I had no idea this book was the beginning of a series, so when I was suddenly five pages from the end and virtually nothing had happened, my love for this book dropped about fifty points.

It all sounds so horrendously negative and really, the book wasn’t terrible. I might pick up the sequel when it comes out. But oh, it could have been so much better. And I expected so much better.

Copy received from Penguin

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  • Reply Life of a Doctor's Wife June 21, 2010 at 7:02 pm

    I am a big John Grisham fan, but I feel like in recent years he has been sort of spinning them out quickly, and not really pouring all the exciting drama and complex plot twists into them as he used to. (The Firm freaked me out too! So did The Client! And The Pelican Brief! So many good ones!)

    I like the idea of a 13-year-old lawyer, too. But I also loved Nancy Drew and her pumps (and titian hair) and Encyclopedia Brown and a horde of other young detective types. Which I guess is different form a teen lawyer, but similar enough that I might buy it.

    Sounds intriguing at the very least!

  • Reply Packrat June 21, 2010 at 7:31 pm

    Would I be wrong to guess that it might not be the author's fault that there aren't many stand alone books? I really don't know. Just wondering. Maybe Mr. Grisham shouldn't write for children? No answers needed. Just saying…

  • Reply Kimberly F. June 21, 2010 at 7:43 pm

    Packrat – I think you hit the nail on the head. Publishers want books they know will sell, and series sell. Much harder to sell a standalone that does not already have the support of a first bestselling entry.

  • Reply emandtrev June 21, 2010 at 7:48 pm

    I'll have to check this one out for myself. I agree with you, though. Some of John Grisham's earliest works are my favorites.

  • Reply missshortskirt June 21, 2010 at 9:12 pm

    Did they send you that cardboard briefcase with the gavel pen inside? 🙂

  • Reply missshortskirt June 21, 2010 at 9:12 pm

    Did Penguin send you that cardboard briefcase with the gavel pen inside? 🙂

  • Reply Hawke June 22, 2010 at 2:47 am

    I have read some of his books and liked them, but I doubt I will read this one. Too many other things to read.

    Bye the way I really liked Poisonwood Bible. I will send it with Merrick. Thanks!!

  • Reply Kay June 23, 2010 at 2:51 am

    Why Why Why does it have to be a series?????? Not everything has to have a stupid sequel!!!! I am so prepared to LOVE this book – because I am a Grisham groupie….. now?!?!?!?!?! I have it on my radar, but just haven't gotten there yet!

  • Reply Becky June 23, 2010 at 7:18 pm

    I have never read a Grisham book and this was my first. I actually loved Theo he was so eccentric and quaint. I thought this book was such a fun read. It sounds like it didn't quite meet your expectations but I'm sure it will be a hit with tweens.

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