Book Review: CHERUB Series ‘The Recruit’ (Book 1) by Robert Muchamore

‘A terrorist doesn’t let strangers into her flat because they might be undercover police or intelligence agents, but her children bring their mates home and they run all over the place.

The terrorist doesn’t know that one of these kids has bugged every room in her house, made copies of all her computer files and stolen her address book. The kid works for CHERUB.

CHERUB agents are aged between ten and seventeen. They live in the real world, slipping under adult radar and getting information that sends criminals and terrorists to jail.

For official purposes, these children do not exist.’

With a blurb like that I was instantly hooked. In an area overflowing with teenage paranormal romance, The Recruit is like a breath of fresh air. You guys – it’s a book about these kick ass kids who are spies. Spies!! They go on cool secret missions and hard-core training exercises and help stop the bad guys and there’s not one brooding, tortured, ridiculously attractive male protagonist (*coughvampire/angel/werewolf/fairy*) in sight!

Of course I am well aware that these are books aimed at young adolescent boys.

I don’t care.

James is the kind of cocky, cheeky, little troublemaker that I can’t help but love. (At some point while reading some rather strange, premature, maternal instincts kicked in – I just wanted to give him a hug. I would totally adopt him.) He has some anger issues, coming from a pretty broken home and crappy childhood, the kind of kid a lot of people write off immediately, (he steals, vandalises property and sometimes can’t control his temper); but he is a good kid at heart who needs some direction, is intelligent and very protective of his little sister. We only get to see glimpses of their close bond here – but I’m hoping their relationship will be build upon in later books.

What I loved about this book was that the story felt realistic, not just the concept of mini spies, but the characters as well. Yes, these kids are spies, on secret missions for the government, but they still act like kids. James hates school, and just wants to just play on his Playstation, eats way too many Mars bars and gets distracted by a cute girl on his first mission. (Bless him) The teasing companionship, competition and closeness between the recruits was one of my favourite aspects. I definitely felt I was reading about real kids, and Muchamore got the balance between trained spies and normal 12-year-old behaviour just right.

There were too many characters that I really liked in the book to mention, but I have to talk about Kerry, James’s best friend, who is one feisty little kid who I just loved for constantly kicking James’ backside, bickering and making sure he survived basic training. I can’t wait to see how these characters will develop as they grow up in the later books.

The Recruit is a story that won’t set your heart racing, and is a fairly lightweight read due to it’s target audience, but it is a fun, well-written and unique storyline that is certainly refreshing and one that has plenty of room to grow as the series follows James’s time at CHERUB. The feel and style of narration reminded me a lot of Percy Jackson by Rick Riordan (a series I adore). I’m already quite attached to James (bless his heart) and you can bet I’ll be coming back to find out what happens to him next. I have a feeling the stories are only going to get darker and older as they go on.

Recommended Reading Age: 11+

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