Thursday, 27 October 2011

People’s Republic


People’s Republic by Robert Muchamore (Hodder/Hachette)
HB RRP $29.99
ISBN 9781444906103
Reviewed by Hilary Smillie

This is the first book in the second series of CHERUB, written by a London-based author who was a private investigator prior to becoming a best selling children’s author. CHERUB is a branch of British Intelligence whose agents are children between the ages of ten and seventeen. Recruited mainly from orphanages and care situations, the children (and younger siblings) live on a campus with a huge staff to educate and train them to become agents. This only happens if they pass a 100 day test of endurance and self reliance.

Ryan Sharma, twelve years of age, has passed the test and is recruited for a mission infiltrating a crime empire based in Kyrgystan. His task involves befriending the grandson of the woman who heads the evil Aramov Clan, Ethan Kitsell, who goes to a school in California. Ryan finds being an agent is not easy and his attempts to win over Ethan includes inadvertently harming him. He wonders if the whole project is worth it.

Enter an eleven year old Chinese girl, Fu Ning. Her story illustrates the difficulties of having a criminal for a father, and an alcoholic stepmother. When her father is arrested, she embarks on a dangerous escape from China, enduring torture, kidnapping and detention. The reader is exposed to the way desperate people are victimised, manipulated and abused. Ryan and Ning eventually meet which sets the scene for the next book in the series.

People’s Republic ticks all the boxes for coarse language, sexual reference and violence, although to its credit it does portray a sense of conscience and empathy. Halfway through this book I gained the impression I was reading an adult crime story in which, strangely, two children played the main roles. It is certainly a page turner, but also a reality hit which, to me, overshadows the fictional storyline. The tag NOT SUITABLE FOR YOUNGER READERS found on the back cover is important for discerning parents aware of the influence of the written word.

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