Book Review: Theodore Boone by John Grisham
Hello everyone! My name is Laura Losch and I’m a Middle School Media Specialist in Hall County. I will be posting from time to time reviews of books I’ve read. I try to read as many middle-grades fiction books as I can – it’s my secret weapon for promoting literacy at my school. So first up, the new middle-grades fiction novel by John Grisham, Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer.
Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer. John Grisham. Interest Level: 5-8; Reading Level: 5.2; Lexile Level: 790.
This book is about Theodore Boone, a thirteen-year-old eighth-grader who loves the law. Both his parents are lawyers (Divorce and Real Estate) and he wants to become a famous trial lawyer himself one day. The book centers around a huge murder trial in town – the first murder trial in numerous years. Everyone wants to get in to watch this historic trial. As the trial begins it appears that the murder suspect is guilty of killing his wife. All signs point to it. But late one night, Julio, an El Salvadoran immigrant who Theo knows from volunteering at the local homeless shelter, approaches him about a surprise witness. Julio’s cousin may have witnessed the crime, but Julio’s cousin is an illegal immigrant and doesn’t want to come forward. How can Theo get the prosecution to learn about the surprise witness without exposing Julio’s cousin to immigration? Should Theo just stay out of the situation and let the murder suspect get off scott free or should he stop the trial and expose this new witness who could change everything?
A couple of things right off struck me wrong about this book. I know John Grisham is a great adult writer so I expected a great middle-grades book, but I just found it okay. The first thing that gets me is Theo is thirteen and in the book it says, “Theo did not know of a single thirteen-year-old boy in his class who admitted to having a girlfriend.” Really John Grisham? Every thirteen-year-old boy I know will freely admit to having a girlfriend or liking a girl or thinking a girl’s hot. Where did he research this book? Antarctica? The second thing I thought was ridiculous was that Theo had a cell phone and in the book says not many kids at his school have their own cell phone. Again, really John Grisham? I think 90% of my school population has a cell phone. They can’t scrap up $2.25 for lunch, but by golly they can text their friends! With those issues being stated, I think Theo should have been a 5th grader. The description of Theo just screams 5th grader to me. I’m not sure if John Grisham didn’t think a 5th grader could be so tech savvy as Theo is in the book or what, but Theo shouldn’t have been thirteen, that’s all I’m saying.
Moving on. Theo acts as a “kid lawyer” to all the kids at school. Helping them understand custody battles, foreclosures, even bankruptcy. I did appreciate that every time a kid came to Theo for help on one of these issues, the topic was clearly defined for the reader. This makes the book an easy read for even a 4th grader. Big law-type descriptions were also always well explained. For example when Theo’s class goes to visit the big murder trial, Theo explains to his class prior what they will be seeing, who the main players of the trial are, what those people will be doing, etc. So it’s nice that the reader will go away from this book with a little more law knowledge from whence they came.
Another puzzling part of the book to me was a character named Omar Chepee. This “thug” is seen hanging around the murder suspect during the trial. Theo knows Omar from other cases as a “strong arm” who doesn’t always follow the law. Throughout the trial Omar watches Theo, follows Theo, gives Theo mean looks, but at the end of the book, we don’t know anything more about Omar. What is the point of Omar Chepee? In fact, the book really leaves you with unanswered questions about a lot of things. I like things to come to a conclusion and this book didn’t really have a conclusion per se.
So for my overall review, this book is an easy read for 4th through 8th grades. The law terminology is clearly defined and explained so the reader never feels left out and goes away from the book knowing a little more than before. The book contains no inappropriate content whatsoever. I think older students will think Theo is “lame” due to the fact that he doesn’t like girls and is the only one with a cell phone. Even though the murder trial is exciting, it’s not that exciting and doesn’t make you want to “keep on reading”. This is not a “I-couldn’t-put-it-down” type of book. But overall – – – okay.