My daughter just finished reading Theodore Boone, Kid Lawyer by J. Grisham and absolutely LOVED it. I have never read any of his adult book and was wondering if any are appropriate for a tween. My daughter really liked to read mystery, thriller types of books. she is on an advanced level at school and my concern is not whether or not she will understand it, but are some a little too "adult" for a younger child. Your thoughts?
John Grisham for 11 year old
It's been a long time since I've read a John Grisham novel. I read the Firm, The Pelican Brief, both of which I enjoyed, but I gave up halfway through A Time to Kill. Then I read The Client, which I disliked, and I got almost all the way through The Runaway Jury, but gave up 20 pages from the end when I realized I just didn't care about how it ended or what happened with the characters.
I wouldn't recommend A Time to Kill for a tween, and I don't know about the others since it's been so long. My 12 year old daughter was given one of the Theodore Boone books and just has no interest in reading it, and I doubt she'd like The Firm or The Pelican Brief even though I enjoyed those. I feel like they are a little too adult for a child that age, but I don't remember if there was anything specifically bad about them. They do have murder in them, drinking, probably swearing.
I've never read anything by John Grisham, but when I was 11-12 I started reading P.D. James and Minette Walters. My mum was tired of reading children's stories for me and since I had handled The Lord of the Rings trilogy well enough, and loved murder mysteries on television and we had a tiny library full of these books at home...she suggested I start reading those myself in the evening. I did and I enjoyed them.
It really is a matter of knowing your own daughter, but also a matter of knowing your own comfort zone. For example, I know quite a few parents who really do not want to subject their children to cursing or even a hint of sex (like characters diving under a cover, moans soon escaping from the bedroom...) and that is their right as parents. Then there are those parents who really do not care...
The best you can do is really reading the book you are thinking about letting your daughter read, but hesitating about, yourself first. Because no matter what people on here will say, what we think is okay will probably differ from what you think is okay. A scene one person don't even think about might make your daughter throw the book away in disgust...you never know.
Yikes, I checked publication dates, and The Firm was published 20 years ago, so that has made me feel a little old today. No wonder my recollection of the books is misty and I'm not sure that I can offer a firm opinion, but this is what I remember:
I'd be leery about A Time to Kill for a tween, because it begins with the gang rape of a child.
I recall that the young law student in The Pelican Brief is having an affair with her professor and he is killed early in the book. I don't recall how explicit the book was, though.
I'd wonder whether The Firm would hold a tween's attention, since there is a lot about the steps to becoming a lawyer and the mob and neither makes interesting reading for an 11 y.o. Likewise, The Chamber has a lot of details about death penalty appeals.
Having said that, I was probably reading popular novels of the same ilk when I was about that age or a year older. I second the suggestion that you read the books yourself, because it's difficult to know what another person will find disturbing.
For relatively tame mysteries, has she tried the old Agatha Christie novels? There are issues - it would be worth discussing classism, racism and sexism if she reads them - but I don't think they are riddled with explicit sex and violence, if those are the "adult" concerns that you have.
Has she read any of Carl Hiassen's kids books? I haven't so I don't know if they're along the same line as Theodore Boone, but it's sort of a similar situation—author who writes adult mysteries does kids books. I know "hoot" has gotten really good reviews. I picked up a copy at the thrift store the other day and my 10 yr old said her friend really loved it when she read it so she was interested in it.
Carl Hiasson's books are a great suggestion. My kids liked Hoot and Flushed, but I think they found Scat was a little too similar to the others. They were also probably aging out of them by the time they read it though. There is a very nice environmental theme to the books.
It also reminds me of another series - the Echo Falls mysteries by Peter Abrahams, who writes adult mysteries. The first is Down the Rabbit Hole. The protagonist is a really engaging 13 y.o. girl, Ingrid Levin-Hill. Definitely worth checking out.
I adore John Grisham novels. I can't get enough of them. I read a whole bunch when the early ones were published, and then had a long break from them when he started branching out into non-fiction and that one book about football and pizza (?). I just finished two last week that I hadn't ever read, and am in the middle of a third. When I finish reading what's been published, I start over and reread them again.
Bear in mind that my dd is only 7, so I'm not where you are yet. But no, I cringe at the thought of letting my dd read the adult Grisham novels, even (I think) when she turns 11. The sex scenes are very explicit, in my opinion. The violence leaves nothing to the imagination. Perhaps I'll feel differently when my dd gets to be your child's age, but my first thought is no.
How about Agatha Christie? Too tame? Definitely not as sophisticated as Grisham, but certainly just as addictive to me, even now. I remember our entire fifth grade class was assigned to read "And then there were none". And yet, every ten years or so, I go on an Agatha Christie binge, where I devour every Christie book that I can get my hands on.
Sherlock Holmes/Sir Arthur Conan Doyle? I remember staying up all night when I was your daughter's age so that I could devour all of his books.
Laurie R King's series about Mary Russell, which is a very nicely done pastiche of Sherlock Holmes, keeps me up all night because I cannot stop reading them and yet I think I would be fine with letting my child read this author. If I remember correctly, what a child didn't understand, the author writes in such a way that is looks boring and the child would skip over it anyway.
How about Sara Paretsky? I like the edginess of the V.I. Warshawski private investigator / former attorney series, but I think it is a teeny bit less graphic than Grisham.
Perhaps the early Tom Clancy novels, like Hunt for Red October or Patriot Games? Haven't read them since they were first published, so I can't remember if there is anything there that I wouldn't like a child to read. I didn't think there was.
How about the early Ken Follett novels? (I was thinking of Lie down with lions.) I seem to remember that some of the later books are rather explicit, however.
I am on the fence about Patricia Cornwell. I love the Kay Scarpetta series so much, but really I do think they would give a preteen nightmares.
How could I have forgotten? My all time favorite: Dick Francis!! (and now his son Felix Francis). I just paid an overdue fine yesterday for the most recent novel. Every single mystery thriller by this author has something to do with horseracing, but it's thrilling and at the same time very informative. The novels are wonderful. I simply cannot put his books down. There are so many novels, that once I've read them all, I simply start again an reread them again with relish. I would be totally comfortable letting my preteen read any of his books.
Oh, here is another one that is a definite yes. Dorothy Gillman's Mrs. Pollifax series. The spunky elderly grandmotherly CIA spy. It's an oldie, but I loved them when they were first published long ago, and I love them now.
Ollyoxenfree- Thanks for making me feel ancient. :D I remember reading The Firm when it was first published.
Edited by emilysmama - 10/13/11 at 5:36pm
As a PP mentioned, the sex and violence are pretty explicit. That being said, I read through Grisham's adult novels back when I was 13-14 and I loved them. The Firm was my favorite, and might be a good one for her to start with. I was an advanced reader as a child, and was never censored by my parents or anyone else in terms of what I could read, and I think this is a fairly good approach (though admittedly not something that every family will be comfortable with). I think it comes down to knowing your kid - if she is mature and advanced reader, she should be able to handle some adult themes, as well as recognizing the difference between fiction and reality. If you think it'll keep her up at night terrified, you might have her wait a year or two.