John Grisham is a master story teller, his books are almost instantly best sellers and the topic of book club selections for months after their release. So far he has tackled a book of Short Stories, Ford County, numerous novels almost always focusing on some law that was broke and the adventure that follows our hero, and there is of course his first and thus far only foray into non-fiction The Innocent Man.
Now Grisham has his eyes set on a whole new generation of readers. With Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer he is turning his attention to the younger readers, and instead of talking down to them he has wrote a challenging, engaging book. Theodore Boone is 13 years old and beloved by the judges, police officers and just about everyone else in town. Theo's (as he likes to be called) parents are both lawyers who work together, and after school Theo goes to the law offices and works diligently on his homework, sometimes taking time out to help other kids with grown up problems.
This ends up becoming a big problem, and the thrust of the book, when a homeless boy from El Salvador confides in Theo that his cousin was a witness to a murder, one that is being tried as they speak. The man accused of the crime is of course guilty but because he planned the perfect murder and has a great lawyer. The cousin can not come forward for one very big, delicate reason, he is an illegal alien.
Many adults may think the story is too complicated but with Grishams usual writing style, and easy prose he unfolds the story at a clipped pace, allowing the books themes to set in before showcasing yet another side to the story. Central themes to the story are as always what is right and wrong: Is it wrong that a 19 year old illegal immigrant will be deported and possibly jailed for being in the country illegally just because he happened to be a witness to a horrible crime. On the other hand is it ok that a man who murdered his wife in cold blood, gets away with that crime because the only witness can not come forward?
Theodore Boone, the boy who is at the center of the drama, the boy who has the moral dilemmas to figure out, is one of the most believable kids to appear in literature. Of course the straight A student would long to play sports, instead of studying all the time. He would have a crush on a married pregnant lady (the crush developed before the pregnancy)Theo is charged with dealing with this situation and he doesn't snap to a judgment and deal with the consequences, that is never Grishams style, he researches and comes to his own conclusions by looking into matters.
By not moralizing, letting readers draw their own conclusions Grisham has created a topsy turvy thriller for children and adults . In what is sure to become a new series for the best selling author, he has created a world where the adults are not always right, and the hero still needs to grow up, though not too fast we hope.