Review: The Recruit by Robert Muchamore

The Recruit by Robert Muchamore is the first book in the
CHERUB series, which is written about an organisation of children who act as
spies and secret agents. This story tells about how James, after his mother’s
death, is approached by CHERUB and offered the chance to join them. Given that
his other choice is to live in a children’s home with kids who’ve already got
him arrested, he agrees. Much of the book regards how he came to be in CHERUB
and the training he had to go through, while about the last third of the book
covers his first mission.

The concept behind this story resembles that behind the Alex
Rider series (I’m not sure which came first) but this book feels much older.
Despite the main character being 11, the book touches on some tough issues and
covers some topics that parents might not be keen on seeing young children read
about. For example, in the first chapter, James attacks a girl in his class and
she ends up needing stiches in her face. On another occasion, he goes to the
birthday party of an older friend and the others at the party think it’s fun to
get him drunk. The copy of the book that I read had a warning on the front that
it wasn’t for younger readers and I would agree. James isn’t exactly an ideal
role model for young kids: he constantly gets into fights, he steals and he
gets drunk.

Another thing that makes me feel that the book is for a much
older readership than the Alex Rider books is the nature of the bad guys. The
bad guys in The Recruit feel solid and complex as characters. When James
interacts with them, you get a feel for real people doing things they think are
right and necessary. James makes a comment at one point that it seems like
everyone is, to some extent, the bad guy in the scenario, which makes him doubt
whether what he did was right. This complexity and the morally grey nature of
the conflict makes the book feel more real, despite the unbelievable nature of
the central concept.

This book was quite an easy read and kept me turning the
pages to find out what happened next. Muchamore kept the tension throughout the
story. The only real drawback to the story is the fact that James is not a particularly
likeable character. Still, Muachamore did a great job of making his actions
understandable and sympathetic. The story was told from his perspective in such
a way that I could accept his motives for his actions, even when I didn’t like
his actions.

Overall, this was an interesting book and I’d consider
reading the others in the series, but James as a central character is a bit
off-putting. I also wouldn’t recommend it as a book for young readers. For
teenagers wanting to read about kids having adventures, it could be a good
choice.

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