It was a difficult choice of which book/series to review first. I have read a ton of fantastic books in the past few months while planning this blog (actually, while procrastinating about planning about starting this blog); each one made the cut to be the first, until I read the next. Finally, I decided to go with a series I have loved for a number a years, mainly because the entire series fits one of my main criteria for what makes a good book: I have re-read the series over and over, and love every book each time.
May I introduce you to the CHERUB series, by Robert Muchamore. Muchamore is a former private investigator in the UK. He was visiting his sister in Australia, and listened to his young nephew moaning about how there was nothing for him to read. So he wrote the first in a series of 16 books, CHERUB: The Recruit. In the first book we meet James Choke, an 11 year old boy with a 9 year old younger sister, Lauren, and a mum who runs a smuggling ring. James is your typical bored out of control boy, constantly getting in trouble at school, lazy, unmotivated. After his mother passes away unexpectedly, James is sent to a children’s home, where he again gets in with the wrong crowd, and is headed down a path to a life of petty crime and jail time. Except…
His roommate Kyle is actually an undercover agent on a recruitment mission, and James finds himself asked to join CHERUB, a secret agent ring staffed by orphan teens age 10 to 17, chosen for their intelligence and physical abilities. It is operated by British Intelligence under the belief that kids are not suspected of working for the government, and people tend to let their guards down around them. They live on a secret campus in Britain. James is put through rigorous testing and training, and goes on his first mission. Throughout the book he meets new friends and learns about himself and what he can be capable of when challenged.
I loved this book, and I loved this series. Throughout the 16 books I watched James grow up to be one of CHERUB’s best agents, but still wanted to smack him when he acted like an ass. He made good friends, and treated them like crap sometimes. He worked hard, and he slacked off. He looked for shortcuts, and got pissed off when they didn’t work out for him. He fell in love, and got distracted by breasts, and made stupid relationship choices. He is brave and impulsive. He is very much a typical, normal teenage boy, who just happens to be a secret agent. And while the series is marketed to boys, it is just as much for girls. There are a lot of kick-ass female agents in CHERUB, many of whom have kicked James’s ass over the years. Muchamore writes great, believable characters. And he writes a great, believable story. There might not really be (or might there…?) a teenage spy ring based in the UK, but when you read these books, you will wish there was one.
I would definitely recommend this series for the young teen, but the themes do get more mature as James grows up. Expect sex (there is no detail at all, very PG-13), drugs etc., all issues teens face in real life, and well handled without unnecessary graphic description.
The CHERUB series is published by Hodder Children’s Books, a division of Hachette Children’s Books.