Theodore Boone: The Abduction

Theodore Boone: The Abduction is the second in John Grisham’s mystery series for kids. In my review of the first book, Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer, I said:

“I appreciate Grisham’s handling of young teens and his respect for the family. The story has plenty of excitement without vulgarity or gore. It can be done!”

I can’t recommend The Abduction as wholeheartedly. Theodore Boone is still a decent kid who mostly tries to do the right thing. He’s a loyal friend and, as often as possible, he takes the time to help keep his friends’ pets out of trouble with the Kitty Court.  

In this story, Theo’s best friend, April Finnemore, is missing, and it appears that she has been abducted by an escaped convict. With the help of his Uncle Ike, Theo finds out where April is, and he and his uncle drive several hours to get her and bring her home. 

The trouble is that Theo has to sneak away without his parents’ knowledge. While Theo’s parents are out of town for the night, he is supposed to be spending the night with his friend Chase. He and Chase concoct stories to keep their parents in the dark long enough for Theo to get away. There is a scene where Theo argues with himself about whether it’s right to do something he knows his parents wouldn’t agree to if they knew. 

“He believed in being honest with his parents and he concealed little from them, but this was different. If they brought April back, then everyone, including his parents, would be so thrilled that Theo would likely avoid trouble.”

Fortunately, he does find April and bring her home safely. Unfortunately, everyone is so thrilled that Theo does avoid trouble. Uncle Ike encouraged Theo to do the wrong thing for the right reasons, and Theo’s parents apparently get so wrapped up in the aftermath of April’s rescue that they forget Theo disobeyed. I was disappointed that there were no consequences for his bad choice. 

The atmosphere of this story is darker and more grim than the first, as well. We are told that April’s parents both have had drug convictions, and her father is an “aging hippie, who still played in a bad garage band with a bunch of other leftovers from the 1980s. He had no real job and was often gone for weeks. The Finnemores were in a perpetual state of separation, with talk of divorce always in the air.” April is vulnerable because she has spent several nights at home alone, terrified, not knowing where either parent is.

In the search for April, a body is found floating in the river, and everyone thinks for a while that it is likely April’s body. We’re told that it is so badly decomposed that it can’t be readily identified. 

Theo and Ike find April with her father and his band at a frat house. Ike is ready with some quick lies to get them inside. “The music was booming from below and they soon found a large stairway that gave way to the party room. The dance floor was in the center, packed with students engaged in all manner of frenzied jerking and shuffling, and to the left was Plunder [the band], pounding and screeching at full volume . . . The room was dark, with colored strobe lights flickering across the mass of bodies.”

The frat house scene is short, and there is nothing explicit described, but the atmosphere is necessarily oppressive. Since the main character is a thirteen-year-old, and the intended audience is young teens, parents need to be aware that in this story, their children may encounter subjects they aren’t prepared to process.