Man vs Beast
by Robert Muchamore
I've bought all the Cherub books - ostensibly for Yasmin, my 10-year-old daughter - but as a fan of grown-up thrillers myself, I also devour them with as much enthusiasm as she does. OK, so all the Cherub books are a formula (James Bond meets Harry Potter), but it's a bloody good one. My 8-year old son, Keshava is not such a fan because the books are "a bit too violent".
Man vs Beast is one of the most interesting of the series. Set in a renamed Wick, on the outskirts of Bristol, it tells the story of James and his friends infiltrating a renamed Animal Liberation Front. While there are a number of beast-sized holes including the rather ridiculous inferred premise that organisations like the ALF are centrally organised, and could be brought down by the capture of half a dozen activists, it's a ripping yarn even so. The main terrorist spectacular is also somewhat far-fetched, but then aren't most thrillers?
What sets this book apart from the rest of the series is the tension between the child agents themselves and the nonviolent animal rights people, as the facts and issues about animal cruelty are explored. This isn't anywhere near as clearcut a case as for example the Class A drug plot.
It's not great literature, but it is a great read, and just the right kind of thing for encouraging children to get the habit.