Thirteen year old Theodore Boone is surrounded by lawyers. Both of his parents are lawyers. His Uncle Ike, is a former lawyer. He knows almost all the lawyers at the courthouse where he spends as much time as he can. It’s no wonder Theo considers himself a lawyer or at least a lawyer in training. Theo spends his days doing all his homework, visiting Uncle Ike once a week, getting dogs released from animal court and offer advice to both kids and adults. Soon Theo finds himself caught up in a high profile murder trial. Theo knows a secret, one that could impact the outcome of the trial. The only problem is that he’s sworn to secrecy. What’s a kid lawyer to do?
John Grisham is an excellent storyteller, but he misses the mark on this one. While Grisham does an excellent job of explaining the legal system in young adult terms, the story lacks the intense pace and excitement needed to engage teens. Theo is a character with a lot of potential but unfortunately comes across rather flat and at times seems too good to be true. Grisham seems out of touch with real kids. Hardly any of the teens have cell phones. Just take a walk down any real middle school hallway and you’ll see that’s not the case with real teens. Early in the book Theo states that he doesn’t know a “single thirteen-year-old boy who admitted to having a girlfriend. Just the opposite. They wanted nothing to do with them. And the girls felt the same way. Theo had been warned that things would change, and dramatically, but that seemed unlikely.” (7). That does not mesh with what I have experienced as an elementary and teen services librarian. And finally, the ending was very disappointing. In fact it didn’t seem like an ending at all. I’ve read reviews that indicate this is the beginning of a series. Perhaps the ending was supposed to be a cliffhanger, but it fell short. Possibly all will be revealed in the next installment (provided there is one). Readers who picked up this book expecting Grisham’s usual stellar work will be disappointed. If it is a series, they may not return to see if it improves.