The Activist (Theodore Boone #4) – John Grisham

So until recently, I did not know that John Grisham, famed for his legal thrillers, also wrote YA fiction.

Turns out, he does.

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I accidentally picked a story partway through the Theodore Boone series, but it didn’t matter as they appear to be standalone books as well – at least, The Activist is. Theodore Boone is Grisham’s thirteen year old protagonist – he has two lawyer parents who run their own law firm, and between attending debate club and Boy Scouts, Theo (only his mom calls him Teddy) solves crimes using the power of the law. It’s kind of like Grisham’s normal work – except for kids.

One thing I found about the only-just-teenaged main character is that although at times he is slightly unbelievable (I do not believe that this kid doesn’t get bullied. I just don’t.), it’s also really refreshing to see a protagonist for this age group unashamedly engaged. Not every teenager is rebellious, not every teenager hates school and their parents; I was definitely a well behaved, extra-curricular club attending Girl Guide at the age of 13, and it’s cool to be able to recognise myself. Isn’t that what diversity of representation is about? Every kid being able to recognise themselves?* So sure, this another straight white male (again) but at least he’s different enough for me to notice – and maybe for another geeky teacher’s pet a generation or two below me!

The story itself was enjoyable – Theo goes up against some corrupt politicians, and discovers (funnily enough) activism as a concept. There’s a cool part where Theo and his friends create a protest video which goes viral on YouTube – I for one would LOVE to see the young people I work with get that creative and passionate about a cause! – and in this turbulent political landscape there’s certainly some food for thought.

I’d be keen to pick up other instalments in the series – this is a nice introduction to Grisham’s main body of work, which is, IMO, still where his real strength lies.

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*Please note: I am in no way claiming that this kind of character is enough for diversity in YA, or in literature in general. We the readers want more, please – more female, non-binary, questioning, queer, POC, intersectionality, geeky, rebellious, naive, precocious, emo, cheerleaders. We’re greedy. We want all of these, and more, in various combinations. AND straight white male Boy Scouts who weirdly don’t get bullied.
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