Anthony Horowitz, 2000, 192 pgs.

YA spy novel

The first in the Alex Rider series. If I had this series when I was 12 or 13, I would have swallowed it up. Alex Rider is a 14 year-old British boy, handsome and athletic, whose mysterious uncle has just been killed, leaving him newly orphaned. Soon, Alex is swept into his first assignment as a spy with the M16, and he learns that his uncle had been training him all along to finish the job he started—tracking down and stopping a Lebanese millionaire from unleashing a deadly virus hidden in the gift of computers for all British schoolchildren.

This book is full of MacGyver-like gadgets–zit cream that eats through metal, a yo-yo with string strong enough to carry a boy. It has motorcycle racing scenes, airplane chasing and jumping scenes, and mineshaft crawling scenes. It has bad guys shooting at Alex, but Alex never uses a gun–instead he uses karate and his gadgets to disable the bad guys and escape capture.

On the last page, a contract killer says to Alex, “Killing is for grown-ups and you’re still a child.” Um, what? I guess this is the moral line that young adult authors must straddle when writing thrillers that include lots of people being killed–their adolescent protagonists should not be killing, but the killing happens anyway. Plus, do we really still have to be writing books in which the bad guys are Middle Eastern, with names like Yassen and Herod?


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