When James Choke's mother dies, it looks as though he's on the fast track to a young offender's institution. It seems as though luck is on his side, however, when he is recruited into CHERUB, a secret branch of the government that trains and uses children as spies. He becomes James Adams, and his new life begins.
James is now thirteen, and he's headed out on his most dangerous mission yet. Under American law, kids convicted of serious crimes can be sentenced as adults. Two hundred and eighty of these child criminals live in the sunbaked desert prison of Arizona Max. James must infiltrate this prison and bust out an inmate, who British Intelligence and the FBI hope will lead them to his mother, a woman high up on the FBI's most wanted list.
This is another solid, action-packed offering to the male-orientated young adult genre. I enjoyed it so much that I read it in two sittings - and it probably would have been in one sitting if it wasn't suddenly 2am.
James Adams is such a compelling character. I mean, most of the time, he's a complete idiot. He deliberately shows off, which always ends badly and gets him in trouble, and he messes around, and says things that get him into sticky situations. In fact, he's a 'typical' teenage boy a lot of the time. But, you know, when it really counts, James seems to get his head on straight and actually does a damn good job! I love how Muchamore manages to make him such a well-rounded character.
I enjoyed the fact that that story started off with the end of Lauren's basic training. She's definitely grown on me as a character since the first book, and I enjoyed this insight into how she copes as an agent. We get to see her on her own merit, and not just as James's little sister.
The plot was full of action, well put together, and fast-paced. I enjoyed the setbacks and challenges that Muchamore threw in James's way, and I enjoyed watching him struggle to overcome them. The problems were not solved by convenience or coincidence - James actually had to think and work to get past them. There was no deus ex machina here!
I also enjoyed the introduction of the character of Dave Moss. I hope we see more of him; as an older, more experienced CHERUB, he was fascinating. It was nice to see James looking up to somebody, as well.
I said this on my previous review, but this is not a series for younger readers. There is at least one act of quite explicit violence in this one, coming from the bigger, stronger kids in prison picking on the weaker ones. This is not a fault - in fact, I admire Muchamore from not flinching away from the harsh realities of the world. It is just something to be wary of, particularly if you are picking out this book for someone else to read!
However, the book does
have its faults.Maximum Security
still suffered from the problem I found in Class A
- the head jumping. In fact, I found it was a lot worse in this book! What's wrong with staying put in James's head, Muchamore? D: Like I said in my review for Class A
, this wouldn't be as much of a problem if it didn't just randomly happen in the middle of the page. Head jumping is one of my pet peeves, but I'm beginning to feel as though it's Muchamore's 'style'. Guh. I can put up with it, it's just... irritating.
I also was unsure about the believability of the conditions inside the Arizona Max, but I don't know. Maybe prisons for kids really can be like that. Maybe it's just wishful thinking on my part that it was stretching the truth. I know the whole concept of CHERUB is fictional, but it feels as though it could be real. The conditions inside Arizona Max were just so horrible I didn't want them to be. I don't think that this is a particularly a problem with Muchamore's book, but more a problem with me personally. It just didn't sit well with my conscience.
Aside from those two things, I really liked this book. I'm looking forward to reading the next book in the series to see what James and CHERUB get up to next. :)