Welcome to my blog. I often think I was born with a book in my hand. I have always enjoyed reading, but more importantly, talking about books. This blog is partially about reviews, but is really a forum to talk about what I'm reading, and express all of the thoughts and feelings that there simply isn't room for in a professional review. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on your favourite books as you follow my reading journey.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Middle Grade Monday: Lawless by Jeffrey Salane

12-year-old M has had an unsual education. Her homeschooling has given her a firm grasp on reading, writing, and how to escape from any room. Little did she know that this unusal education would prepare her to become a student at the Lawless school- a prestigious academy for the children of criminal masterminds.

As M navigates her way through the various criminal cliques,she stands out so much that she gets invited to join the secret society of the Masters. But when her intiation takes her off campus for a real-life art heist, M is forced to question which side she's really on.

In an era of Wimpy Kid clones and Harry Potter wannabees, it's a refreshing change to read a middle-grade novel that is not only a full-on adventure, but one which features an exceptionally unique and intelligent heroine.

M, (and no, this is not short for anything) whose father died in an accident when she was younger, has grown up with a series of tutors and a frequently absent mother. Her studies have been a bit unconventional, to say the least, but she enjoys her studies, and is well-versed in art, nature, and the art of escape.

It doesn't take long before the action begins, and M finds herself being chased by a gang of Fulbrights (enemies of Lalwess), having to pilot a plane (which is difficult since she's afraid of flying), and figuring out a way to break into her first class. (And making quite the entrance.)
The novel is fast-paced, and full of mystery and intrigue. M's time at Lawless includes escaping from a room called "The Box", planning a theft, and surviving her intiation into the school's secret society.

What's so appealing about M is that despite her many talents, she's still a vulnerable kid who wants to fit in. Her world is literally flipped upside down in an instant when she goes to Lawless, and having had substantially less preparation for the school than the other students, she has to rely on her wits and her skills to help her navigate the challenges being thrown at her. Not everybody likes her, and she certainly encounters bullies and mean girls at the school, but she learns how to be part of a team, and what it means to have friends who are loyal to you, and to be loyal to them in turn.

This is a novel of self-discovery, of family (and family secrets), mystery and humour. The characters and the story are well-developed, the villains are villainously bad, and while this story does conclude, there are still a few loose ends that will leave readers anticpating the second book in the series.

The main character is a girl, but shouldn't be classified as girly. Boys and girls will equally enjoy it, and it's a perfect novel for kids who have enjoyed other series such as H.I.V.E. and Mysterious Benedict Society.