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THE RECRUIT

by Robert Muchamore
Realistic Fiction
2004 (Great Britain), October 2005 (United States)

“Although there have been many technical advances in intelligence operations since CHERUB was founded, the reason for its existence remains the same: adults never suspect children are spying on them.” (p.1)

For many of us, part of the process of growing up was wishing we could become spies.  In Robert Muchamore’s The Recruit, that wish is granted for a number of children, all who were or are a part of CHERUB, a branch of the British Government that’s top-secret and trains children to be spies. These children are used in missions that adults cannot complete. They take the place of everyday children in an everyday community, and can gain access to information that the adults cannot reach.

James Choke is a math genius who takes no pride in his schoolwork. He wakes up one night to find his mother dead on the couch. He has no close relatives aside from his younger sister and now has nowhere to go but to a children’s home. After a few days at one of these homes he finds himself in an odd room, an odd place, one much nicer than the children’s house where he was. He finds himself at CHERUB.

“‘James, we have a couple criteria for new residents here. The first is passing our entrance exam. The second, slightly more unusual requirement, is that you agree to be an agent for British Intelligence.’ ‘You what?’ James asked, thinking he hadn’t heard right. ‘A spy, James. CHERUB is part of the British Intelligence Service.’ ‘But why do you want children to be spies?’ ‘Because children can do things adults cannot.’” (p. 71)

James has to make his way through basic training with a stranger, who through the process, he happens to befriend. Kerry, along with Kyle and Bruce, are James’ best friends at CHERUB. They help him settle in, and get used to the routine. James has to learn a number of skills in training that he will use on his missions. Once he passes the training, if he does, he must embark on his first mission, to a new place, as a new person.

The Recruit explores both the themes of family and friendship, and the need to push yourself. Once James’ mom dies, all he has left is himself and his sister. Despite an attempt to break the two apart by Lauren’s father (James’ stepfather) the two children are persistent in staying together. The family bond Lauren and James have is a lesson we all can remember and take away from this book. Family should always stick together, and always support each other when times are bad.

In addition to family, the theme of friendship is evident in this novel. James’ friends at CHERUB are the ones who allow him to be successful. Befriending Kerry helps him through basic training, and befriending others like Kyle and Bruce helps him to settle in at his new home. The people at CHERUB, many of whom are all friends with each other, must stick together. That’s the way they survive their missions and it’s part of the lifestyle they live.

Also, basic training at CHERUB is a grueling test of endurance, strength, and mind power. James must push himself beyond limits to be able to pass, let alone survive. In every situation in the book, James has to be the best he can be. Anyone who reads this book can turn this theme into a lesson, and learn to push themselves in every aspect of their own life. Everyone should push themselves through their own life. Pushing yourself allows you to be successful and live the life you want to live.

It is somewhat interesting, however, that this novel about child spies was written in the time period we are living in today. There is a war amidst in our world, and basic security is at the highest level it can possibly be. CHERUB uses children 10-17. Kids those ages might not be overlooked in the world we live in today. Anyone can be considered dangerous. Kids are not exempt from the security checks adults go through. At airports, children are checked. At sporting events, children are checked. Anyone in our world could be dangerous. Though having children spies could realistically work, with the level of security our world is at today, children spies gaining the access they need could be very difficult. Though in many ways children spies would, and could, be effective, they might not be as effective as people would have thought.

This book is absolutely wonderful. It’s very suspenseful, and keeps you turning the pages all the way through. You always want to know what happens next. The book starts off a little slowly, but once James arrives at CHERUB, the pace picks right up. I was very surprised, however, at how poorly edited the book was. It didn’t take away from the reading, but I was still very surprised. There were a number of typos. Just for example, there was one instance where Muchamore wrote “Kery” instead of “Kerry.” There was another instance where the word “build” was written instead of “built.” There were a number of periods missing, along with other typos. The grammar was basically correct, but one more proof reading probably would have picked up these simple typing errors. For this reason, I give the book a rating of two and a half out of three stars. It was excellent, yet the typos brought the rating down. This book is probably meant for children, aged 11 and up. The topic of spies probably appeals more towards boys, yet there is no reason why girls cannot read and enjoy this story. Being a spy is something many of us dreamed about as kids. In this book, we see how it can be executed. Overall, this book kept me hooked all the way through. By the time I reached the end, I couldn’t put it down. It’s a pretty quick read, and one that everyone should enjoy.

                       

Jack      December 2005



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