Here’s the thing, guys and galls, I’m 30 in a minute. In literally less than a week I’m going to be the big three oh, but I’m not going to stop reading children’s books. And Anthony Horowitz is one of the reasons why.
Even though the first book, Stormbreaker, is now 17 years old, the Alex rider books are, for me, so incredibly well written that they work as an adult reader. He’s an understandable, relatable child who is aware of how ridiculous all of the situations he gets into are. He know’s it’s not really on for a child to be getting involved with MI6. He knows that his life isn’t usual, and he reacts to the various perils he encounters in a very believable way.
It’s an action thriller written by a man who knows action thrillers. The protagonist is a child, which is what makes it a children’s book. The themes are not specifically children’s themes. OK, there’s not ‘adult content’, but the idea that a tech mogul is trying to use computers to release small pox in a nation wide terror attack in revenge for the prime minister having been a bully at school is frightening stuff, even as an adult reader.
Stormbreaker is gripping. It’s no surprise that it’s sales have topped nine million. And this, guys and girls, is why I look like death warmed up today. It’s not a book that I can put down. As a dyslexic reader I do tend to struggle, but it’s worth battling through. (I also have this book on tape to read along to, so that I don’t have to worry too much about stumbling over the words.)
On criticism I’ve often read about this series, especially by people who are new to it – so generally it’s a criticism of Stormbreaker, is the violence. It is, at times, a violent book and the fact that this violence is leveled at a little boy is shocking for adults to read. But that’s not the point. This is a book for children, and because there is nothing casual about the way Horowitz writes the violence in this book, it does work. Stormbreaker doesn’t engender an attitude of casual violence in children, because it’s serious about it. Alex gets hurt. Other people get hurt and Alex has to cope with that too. It works for children because there is danger possible in interactions with adults, but there are also consequences for our actions.