Review Blog

Oct 07 2008

The sleepwalker by Robert Muchamore

cover image

Hodder Children's Books, 2008
(12 +) I am a huge fan of Muchamore's The Recruit, but haven't read others from the series until now. I was looking forward to The Sleepwalker, and in many ways it didn't disappoint. Gritty, exciting, realistic and fast moving, it ticked all the boxes you would expect for an appealing teenage read. However it is most definitely a teenage read and that's where I came in for a bit of a shock. I recommended The Recruit to my nephew when he was nine and he loved it. I'd be in deep trouble with his Mum if I encouraged him to read The Sleepwalker! Muchamore has moved on and so have his characters. James Adams, aged ten in The Recruit is now fifteen and like many fifteen year old boys is preoccupied with sex, swearing, alcohol and his looks.

To be fair Muchamore's books all include the warning 'Not suitable for younger readers' on the cover and they are located in the teenage section of most book shops and libraries, but I was still caught out, and I know of at least one Year 6 teacher who has been recommending The Cherub series to the boys in her class based on how much her 11 year old son enjoyed The Recruit. You read one book in a series and you assume the rest will be similar. I won't be doing that again!

Robert Muchamore is fulfilling a need for realistic, action packed reads for the 'fight club' generation who enjoy military style action and violence, but are not quite ready for James Patterson and Andy McNab's adult books. The Sleepwalker is violent, opening with a stomach churning description of a fatal air crash. Tragedy and pain are dealt with 'manfully' - you laugh about it and you get on with it. However, the idea that an agent, having just lost his entire family in said air crash, becoming one of the main investigators is somewhat irritating in a book that purports to be 'realistic'.

The story turns on Fahim, an English boy with Arab background who believes his father may be responsible for the air crash. Cherub agents Jake and Lauren are sent in to investigate and find themselves up against Fahim's chillingly violent father and uncle.

The Sleepwalker's downside is the sub-plot covering Cherub agents James' and Kerry's two week work experience in a fast food outlet. Through the entire book I was waiting for this to somehow link to the main storyline, but it never did. In the end it petered out like a damp squib and seems to have no other purpose than padding and offering a tension building break from the main plot. None of Muchamore's readers appear to mind this rather lazy writing technique and The Sleepwalker has been awarded a universal five start rating by Amazon reviewers. He is obviously hitting all the right buttons with teenage readers, so who am I to quibble?
Claire Larson

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