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The International Writers Magazine - Our Tenth Year: Review

The Sleepwalker by Robert Muchamore
Publisher: Hodder Children’s Books (2008)
ISBN: 978-0-340-93183-7
Nick Prescott

Only CHERUB agents can unearth the truth. They’re trained professionals with one essential advantage: adults never suspect that children are spying on them. This was the part of the blurb on the back cover that made me stop and wonder; ridiculous premise or a genius idea by the book's author Robert Muchamore. Either way I was intrigued enough to read on and take a look into the world of CHERUB, a branch of British Intelligence whose agents are children between ten and seventeen years old.

A plane has crashed over the Atlantic Ocean, just two days shy of the anniversary of the nine-eleven disaster, killing all the passengers and crew on board. The crash inspectors suspect terrorism, but are unable to rule anything in or out. There isn’t much to go on until Mac, a retired CHERUB director who has lost family in the airline disaster, believes he has stumbled on to a lead. Fahim, an eleven year old boy, has called a police hotline suspecting his father of involvement. Officials put it down to being a prank, but Mac thinks there is something there.

Enter CHERUB agents and siblings, James and Lauren Adams, two of the highest ranked and most respected agents on the CHERUB campus. Lauren is sent on a mission to discover all she can from Fahim about his fathers possible involvement and Fahim, worried about his mother’s recent disappearance under suspicious circumstances, is more than happy to help, but progress is slow and there are no breaks in the case from anywhere else. Is Lauren wasting her time? Meanwhile, James is having problems of his own, having been placed on a ridiculous, as he sees it, work experience placement at a Deluxe Chicken fast food restaurant with his somewhat less than friendly ex, Kerry. It doesn’t take long for James to find himself in trouble when he gets involved with a domestic violence situation between new friend, Gemma, and her thuggish boyfriend, Danny.

Muchamore has written a well constructed story that deals with teenage angst, sex and alcohol in a realistic way that can be easily related to by both adolescent boys and girls alike, as well as addressing more adult themes such as racism, terrorism and domestic violence. The story moves along at a rapid pace and has action and excitement throughout with an adrenaline fuelled climax. The Sleepwalker is the ninth book in the CHERUB series and I found myself wishing I was ten years younger so that I might enjoy them all as a twelve year old when, in my mind at least, anything was possible. Even now in my twenties, I read the book thinking to myself ‘damn, I wish this was true.’

For all the praise I have given though I can’t say the novel is without its flaws. There were moments I felt that I couldn’t sink my teeth into enough of the details or, that more should have happened at certain points in the text. I am still not sure whether I liked James enough and, although the character is accurate of many fifteen year olds (cocky and arrogant), I didn’t really ever feel like he did anything to warrant the respect his character was given in the story. Also the fight scenes ran a bit too much like a choreographed movie scene, with roundhouse kicks being thrown all over the place. All in all, The Sleepwalker is a well crafted and well thought out novel with an excellent insight into the lifestyles of its intended audience. I would definitely recommend this to all young teenagers who enjoy a good read.
© N Prescott October 2009

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