Saturday, December 3, 2011

Fiction for Middle School Boys

I will admit that I've read all 7 Harry Potter books.  Many people have different opinions on these about whether they want their children to read them.  After discussions with friends, I decided that I would let my children read one each year beginning when they turn 10 or 11.  Harry gets older in the books and the later books include material (how they address magic) and are often scary in ways that I feel aren't appropriate for young readers.  So, that's going to be my approach with these books and my kids.

This week I read a book that made me recall my feelings about Harry Potter.  It reminded me of the books because my husband's reaction to it and what he was concerned about.
The Future Door by Jason Lethcoe
You see my husband has a habit of picking up the books I'm reviewing, flipping them open, and reading a few pages. After he read a snippet from this one, his first question was whether I was going to let our 8 year old daughter read it?  I said I didn't know.  He replied that he didn't want her to read it.  That made me wonder.  So, I sat down to read it.

This book is the story of Griffin Sharpe and his uncle, Rupert Snodgrass and his uncle's time machine.  I never noticed a mention of exactly how old Griffin is in this story.  The picture on the front cover made me think that he was about 9 or 10 years old.  Based on the character's actions and thoughts, I would have thought it much more likely that he was between 13 and 16 years old.  The plot has many twists and turns.  It's a fun story in that aspect.  Griffin and his uncle are likeable.  The twists at the end are quite unbelievable to me, though.  It is a fantastical story, but there were some details (like whether they ate for 25 years and what they ate) missing that kept the story from working well.  

I suspect that this book is like a lot of fiction written for boys in that vein of Harry Potter.  This book, since it is published by Thomas Nelson, is much milder, but there is still a very significant issue that many parents will have concerns about.  Spoiler alert!: There is a discussion at the end about whether someone had to kill another character, who was an evil man.  The conclusion in the book is that there was no other way.  I'm not even sure how I feel about this as an adult.  I grew up as a conscientious objector.  I married someone in the Army and had to come to terms as an adult with the reality that in this sinful world we live in people aren't always willing to talk.  You can't always "talk it out".  But, it's different for an adult to process such a difficult moral issue and for a child to understand it.  Because of this issue alone, I would only recommend this book to middle schoolers.  The problem is that the reading level is really about a 4th or 5th grade level and I don't think the story will be engaging to 7th or 8th graders.  

If you've read any of my other reviews, you will know that I'm a very picky reader when it comes to my children.  I realize that many parents won't have any issues with this book.  I just want to make you aware of my concerns and feelings.  I've heard about 4th and 5th graders reading The Hunger Games, a popular new book.  That book is leap years ahead of this one in terms of the moral issues it tackles and what it exposes the reader to.  That book is YA fiction written for adults, being read by young children.  So, I know this book is very mild compared to what kids could be reading.  

What's the final verdict?  It's fine reading for a middle schooler.  It has some plot problems, but it isn't bad writing.  It isn't especially good writing either, though.  The issue at the end in which Griffin explains that he had to kill a man--that there was no other choice.  That's one you definitely would want to talk to your kids about.  

Please note that I received a complimentary copy of this book for review from Thomas Nelson Publishing.

1 comment:

Jane Boswell said...

As a Christian and a former atheist who dabbled in the occult as a teenager, I'm afraid I can't agree with you about the Harry Potter books. Having known "witches and satanists" who have been delivered from that lifestyle, I understand the reality of witchcraft. It is hugely popular in England and "secular" Europe. These books make this pagan religion seem harmless and even 'good'. The devil is #1 a deceiver and he can even deceive the "very elect". I would ask you to rethink your opinion of these books.