New Guard is the seventeenth book in the exhilarating CHERUB series by Robert Muchamore. Aimed at young teenagers, these books are ideal for parents who struggle to keep their boys reading. While it seems regressive to talk about ‘boys’ books and ‘girls’ books, in my experience, teenagers tend to split into these camps. And frankly, whatever it takes to kickstart the reading habit has got to be worth a shot!
CHERUB is a top secret branch of the British Secret Service. It’s mainly comprised of orphans, aged 10-17 years old, who are recruited from care homes and trained to be secret agents. These are some tough kids. Trained in martial arts, espionage and survival techniques, they easily slip under the adult radar. After all, who expects kids to be working as undercover agents?
In this, the final instalment in the series, their mission is to infiltrate a radicalised Muslim extremist group, with the aim of rescuing hostages held in Islamic State territory in Syria. As you can probably deduce from this brief synopsis, the author demands intelligence and an enquiring mind from his young readers. He never, for one moment, condescends to them. The pace is cracking, the plot fairly gallops along and an array of thrilling gadgetry is employed.
My 13-year old son tells me that CHERUB is cool and this may well be the key to its success. New Guard contains some relatively adult themes, swearing and violence. I personally feel this is age appropriate, the hint of forbidden-ness provides a real hook.
Also, the author consistently assumes moral responsibility. For example, violent acts always have consequences and none of these scenes are gratuitous. If they cause the more conservative members of the family to raise a disapproving eyebrow, well that’s an added bonus!
New Guard is published by Hodder Children’s Books, 320 pages.