Theodore Boone is a thirteen-year-old lawyer, though of course he’s not really a lawyer at that age. But both his mother and father are, and after school every day he stops by the Boone’s legal practice to do his homework, accompanied by his dog, Judge, who thinks he’s a human. Judge will only ever eat human food, and anything at that, and always sleeps on Theodore’s bed too.
While Theodore is in the office he has a habit of poking around and glancing at files, not unusual for a kid, hence his interest in the law, and the current cases the Boone’s are working on. His ambition is to become either a great trial lawyer, or if not that, then a great Judge. Not bad ambitions to have, at that. Set your sights high, kid!
And it is while there that he first comes across the concept of “eminent domain”. For those UK readers, think "compulsory purchase". It’s pretty much the same thing. This is the tool whereby governments the world over can force through the purchase of vital buildings and plots of land against the seller’s wishes, to build anything they like in their place, from airports to motorways, to hospitals to railway stations. No one and nothing can get in the way of eminent domain and compulsory purchase. Though that is not strictly true, for campaigns the world over have successfully overturned such bullying development on occasion, though campaigners lose out far more often than they win.
In Britain it is only relatively recently that forced sellers were paid full market value, and even a little compensation on top, which is the least they might expect. But imagine how hard it would be to be told your house had been bought, (that’s that, live with it!) and would be demolished, even if your family had lived in the same building on the same plot of green land for a couple of hundred years. Devastation doesn’t begin to cover it. Think HS2 railways, for one! But nothing seemingly gets in the way of progress, and not always for the best.
John Grisham’s Theodore Boone books are aimed at the younger reader. Some say it is a cynical ploy to catch readers at a young age in the hope that they will go on to buy and read Mr G’s huge catalogue of adult legal thrillers. Others say that these books are an attempt to find a new audience to enable Mr G to regain the title of the world’s best selling author, though Jimmy Patterson and J K Rowling might have something to say about that.
Whether thirteen year old readers are really interested in taking on legal yarns when they might prefer mermaids, zombies, horror and wizards is moot point, but this the fifth Theodore Boone book (with more to come, apparently) so clearly someone somewhere thinks this is a strategy worth following, and they may well be right.
At the end of the book there are even a number of exercises, such as you might find in English language textbooks. What do you think of the conflict between X and Y, and did you believe the actions of A over B was right and true? That kind of thing. Start your essay now!
Not too sure that many readers get involved with such stuff, but there is a website for readers to comment on and get involved with too, (See what other people are saying!) so maybe the whole idea is working.
As for the book itself, it rolls along, up to a point. Then a legal problem hits the thread, eminent domain for one, and it’s as if we are taken to one side by the creator and given a sharp lesson on the finer points of the issue, and that of course slows the story right down, as the readers are brought up to speed with what is being talked about. Exercise done, we all understand where we are going, the story can begin again, and we get on to the next chapter, and the next hurdle, and next horrible not to be trusted man, (men), and there sure as hell are a lot of those in the world of eminent domain, and the like.
I have no idea how many of the Theodore Boone readers are under say sixteen, though I suspect the number is not as great as the publishers hope. More likely, I reckon the Boonies are really older generation dyed in the wool John Grisham readers who are simply filling in time reading these stories, as they await the next tome from the great man.
And there is nothing wrong in that. The stories do roll happily along, and are easy to read and are certainly shorter than the average Grisham tale. They are inoffensive too, as you might expect, suitable for any age, given the audience that is being targeted here, almost happy clappy Sunday school type books, and no doubt they do keep the sales figures turning.
“How many units have we shifted this week, Wilmer?” you can almost hear some switched on publisher yelling out of some high rise block in New York.
If you like John Grisham’s books you will probably like this one too. If you are new to the genre these could be a decent place to start, and if you are indeed a thirteen-year-old kid, then don’t let me stop you dipping your eyes into these novels. Hey, who knows, you might even enjoy them, and feel the need to move on to something heavier, and much darker too. But don’t expect to find any mermaids, wizards or zombies here because they have clearly been banned. For now.