Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Theodore Boone: The Activist

Theodore Boone: The Activist

John Grisham
Fiction  Series
For ages 8 to 12
Penguin, 2013   ISBN: 978-0525425779

Like so many other communities around the country, Theodore Boone’s hometown has been affected by the financial recession, and the residents have learned that budget cuts have been implemented. Usually Theo does not really pay much attention to politics, but this time political decisions made by the local and state governments are affecting him personally. He is furious when his after-school music program is suddenly cancelled and, together with the other musicians in his program, he goes to talk to the school principal about what is happening.

   Theo learns that she, just like the children, cannot do anything about the situation. She has to follow orders, and her orders are to discontinue a number of school programs and fire some school employees.

   Soon after this happens, Hardie, one of Theo’s classmates who is also member of his scout troop, comes and tells Theo that the state government has decided that their town needs a bypass. The bypass will run right through the land that Hardie’s grandparents own, and they will be forced to sell it to the state because of the right of eminent domain. If the state thinks the bypass is necessary it can force the Hardies to sell their land. Hardie asks Theo about eminent domain and if there is anything his family can do to fight it. The answer he gets is not encouraging.

   The issue of whether or not the bypass should be built causes a lot of friction in town. It even causes friction in the Boone household. Theo and his mother don’t like the idea, while Mr. Boone thinks it should be built to ease traffic congestion in the town, and to bring much needed commerce to the area.

   At first Theo is not really interested in getting involved, but then something happens that very forcefully pushes him off the fence. Men associated with the bypass project cross the line and endanger the life of someone Theo loves dearly, and Theo decides that enough is enough. No one should be allowed to use violence, intimidation, and bribery to force the people in his town to accept the bypass.

   In this fourth Theodore Boone novel Theo faces his most painful challenge to date. He also has to think very carefully about how far he is willing to go to defend what he cares about and what he thinks is right. Theo’s inner struggles and the fear that he experiences when his comfortable life is attacked makes this book particularly interesting, thought provoking, and memorable.