Categories
Book Club Pick

Cloaked by Alex Flinn

Book Club Pick: December 2014

Cloaked

Book Details:

Title: Cloaked

Author: Alex Flinn

Series: Stand alone novel

Country: United States of America

Publisher: HarperTeen

First Published: 2011

Pages: 341

Publisher Description:

I’m not your average hero. I actually wasn’t your average anything. Just a poor guy working an after-school job at a South Beach shore repair shop to help his mom make ends meet. But a little magic changed it all.

It all started with a curse. And a frognapping. And one hot-looking princess, who asked me to lead a rescue mission.

There wasn’t a fairy godmother or any of that. And even though I fell in love along the way, what happened to be is unlike any fairy tale I’ve ever heard. Before I knew it, I was spying with a flock of enchanted swans, talking (yes, talking!) to a fox named Todd, and nearly trampled by giants in the Keys.

Don’t believe me? I didn’t believe it either. But you’ll see. Because I knew it all true, the second I got CLOAKED.

Review:

Seventeen-year-old aspiring shoe designer Johnny Marco is approached at his family’s struggling shoe repair shop in a ritzy Miami South Beach hotel, by Victoriana, an Alorian Princess, who asks him to find her brother Philippe, who has been transformed into a frog by an evil witch.

In exchange for his heroic deed the Princess agrees to marry Johnny. This would save him and his mother from poverty and not surprisingly the idea of marrying a ‘hot princess’ appeals to the teenage boy.

To aid him on his quest Victoriana gives Johnny a magical cloak that allows him to transport himself anywhere he wishes and a magical earpiece that allows him to talk to animals. Johnny is later joined on his journey by his best friend Meg who has a few tricks of her own up her sleeve.

It is not an easy adventure for Johnny, as he searches for the Prince he battles scary biker dudes, giants and the evil witch.

The story mixes traditional fairytales in a modern setting. Unlike Flinn’s other novels, such as Beastly (2007, Beauty and the Beast), A Kiss in Time (2009, Sleeping Beauty), Towering (2012, Rapunzel), which are a retelling of one main fairytale, Cloaked is a mash up of numerous stories. In an author’s note at the end of the book, Flinn lists her inspirations to include The Frog Prince, The Elves and the Shoemaker, The Six Swans, The Golden Bird, The Valiant Tailor, The Salad, and The Fisherman and His Wife.

Being that it is mash up several fairytales was one of the reasons picking this book over one of Flinn’s others.

The novel is written in first person narrative and Flinn does a reasonably good job at capturing Johnny’s spirit and voice. Johnny is a nice guy, he wants to do best by his mum and help his friends, but at times he could be a little oblivious when it came to reading other people and often I was left wondering how he could be so clueless.

The book is an easy read with short chapters, and I did enjoy the shoe quotes that Johnny and Meg collected and quoted to each other. It is also a fairly clean read with no coarse language, sex and only mild violence.

Cloaked will appeal most to readers who have an interest in fairytales or fantasy adventure stories.

Links:

Alex Flinn Official Website

Alex Flinn on Twitter

Alex Flinn on Facebook

Source: I borrowed this book from my public library.

Categories
Book Club Pick

The Recruit by Robert Muchamore

Book Club Pick: November 2014

TheRecruit

Book Details:

Title: The Recruit

Author: Robert Muchamore

Series: CHERUB (Book one)

Country: Britain

Publisher: Hodder Children’s Books

First Published: 2004

Pages: 342

Publisher Description:

A terrorist doesn’t let strangers in her flat because they might be undercover police or intelligence agents, but her children bring their mates home and they run all over the place.

The terrorist doesn’t know that a kid had bugged every room in her house, made copies of all her computer files and stolen her address book. The Kid works for CHERUB.

CHERUB is not James Bond. There are no master criminals or high-tech gadgets. CHERUB kids live in the real world. They slip under adult radar and get information that sends criminals and terrorists to jail. For official purposes, these children do no exist.

Review:

The novel opens with eleven (soon to be twelve) year-old James Choke at school. Teacher’s pet Samantha Jennings relentlessly teases James about his obese, stolen goods dealing mother Gwen. James retaliates pushing Samantha against the wall. She cuts her face on a protruding nail. Panicked James flees the classroom knocking his teacher down in the process. James’ day only gets worse when Samantha’s older brother Greg corners him, shreds his clothes with a knife and delivers a mighty punch to his stomach.

Before James can tell his mother about what happened at school Gwen tragically passes away after drinking alcohol while on prescription medication. James and his nine-year-old tomboy half-sister Lauren are taken to Nebraska Home, a care home. The next morning Lauren is told she is going to live with father Ron – but he does not want James.

James is befriended by thirteen-year-old Kyle Blueman, whom he shares a room with at Nebraska Home. Despite warnings from Kyle, James falls in with the wrong crowd and after he offends teen gang ring leader Rob Vaughn, the boys set him up to get caught in a liquor store robbery.

The next morning following his arrest James wakes up naked at an unknown facility where he finds everyone is wearing different coloured t-shits and no one will give him a straight answer. James finally meets Dr. Terrance ‘Mac’ McAfferty, who explains that he is at the training campus for CHERUB, a top secret intelligence branch of MI5, where youth aged ten to seventeen undergo extensive training to become spies.

Mac puts James through three entrance tests. If he passes them – he can then choose if he wishes to train to become a secret agent. After passing the recruitment test James returns to Nebraska House where he learns that roommate Kyle and the home’s counsellor work for CHERUB and arranged for James to be recruited.

Three weeks after his arrival James is partnered with Kerry Chang and enters 100 day gruelling training programme under the sadistic Norman Large. Will he pass basic training, earn his grey t-shirt and become a CHERUB agent?

The narrative is written is first person and is easy to read with short chapters. There is plenty of action and adventure to keep readers turning the pages.

The book does feature some moderate language and violence. The central protagonist is a flawed character – he has anger issues, smokes, drinks alcohol, steals, vandalises property. But ultimately James’ redeemable feature is that he cares for his sister Lauren and he begins to develop a moral compass and come to terms with the idea that the good guys have do bad things and the bad guys aren’t necessarily all bad.

The novel tackles some tough topics that would be relevant to young adults such as bullying, peer pressure, alcohol and drug abuse, crime, the loss of a parent and grief.

I would recommend this book for audiences aged 11+. It is probably going to appeal most to younger teen boys.

Links:

Robert Muchamore Official Website

Robert Muchamore on Twitter

Robert Muchamore on Facebook

Robert Muchamore on YouTube

Source: I borrowed this book from my public library.