Hello Book Lovers!
Thanks for stopping by today! I’m bringing you another middle grade read that I recently picked up from my local library. I’ve been in a bit of a book rut & reading middle grade can sometimes jumpstart my reading again because they’re usually shorter & more fast-paced. While this read didn’t fully restart my reading bug, it did help & I felt really great after finishing it since I have not finished a new book in a while. 🙂
Ownership: Borrowed from Library
Genre: Middle Grade; Urban Adventure
Price: $16.99 (hardcover);
Place: Amazon, B & N, Book Depository, GoodReads, IndieBound
Urban Outlaws by Peter Jay Black follows five kids with a mission. Brought together by friendship & circumstances, Jack, Charlie, Obi, Slink & Wren channel robin hood by taking from the rich & giving back to those in need with a modern twist. These kids have tech skills that I envy! Jack researches a target & puts a plan into place. He’s considered a computer coder prodigy. Charlie scopes out the security & handles the gadgets. Slink goes ninja — he can climb buildings, jump between rooftops & speed past cameras. Obi handles command center & monitors their tech set up. Wren is unassuming, but a great thief. She’s the newest & youngest member of the Outlaws. All five live underground–literally–in an old subway room offshoot from a closed subway stop in London. They’ve made it their new home after some bad experiences in foster care. After a routine job taking money from a dirty CEO, the Outlaws discover the existence of a real AI living on a super computer guarded by the government. The Outlaws want to learn more & get tangled up in a risky mission to steal & then destroy the AI. Will they succeed?
When I began this novel, I was reminded a lot of the TV show Leverage but with kids. I absolutely love Leverage so I was pretty instantly hooked into the storyline. Not to mention that I’ve always been a Robin Hood lover since I was a kid & this story, like Leverage, has that theme running through. I also was excited to see coding (while used in an illegal way) represented in the novel since I’m pretty into computer languages and tech related stuff.
However, I did have some immediate issues with the novel. Some of the characters seemed a bit stereotyped & there seemed to be some fat-shamming when it comes to Obi. The first description we get of him: “sitting in the chair was Obi himself, a kid so fat that he spilled over the sides” (Black, p. 32). I was unsettled reading that description. The characters Jack & Charlie are described as standing up for Obi & stopping some of his bullies–which is how they end up as friends at the children’s home they used to live at. However, Jack & Charlie and some of the other characters still comment on his size & seem to shame him when it comes to his eating habits. It was really upsetting seeing Obi characterized this way throughout the novel even though he was also shown in a positive light through his role helping out the rest of the Outlaws.
Outside of this troubling characterization, the plot was still pretty entertaining. I read through the novel rather quickly & I felt that the pace was moderately fast. It might have seemed slow in some parts because I was in a bit of a book rut when I read the novel. But otherwise I read through it pretty quickly. The plot was a little predictable, but I still enjoyed reading how the five Outlaws broke some laws, fought some bad guys & gave back to their community. I liked the twist I didn’t fully see coming & I’m wondering what other trouble the five Outlaws will get into in the next book. The characters were a little flat, but I did enjoy the friendships they had. I’m wondering how they might grow within the series & what other “jobs” or “missions” they might get wrapped up in. The book did end with a slight cliff-ender that would play easily into the next novel. So I’m most likely going to pick it up to follow the storyline & see where these five kids are going to end up.
This novel definitely wasn’t gold, but it was entertaining. The high-tech, Robin Hood themed storyline has its appeals & I’m sure it will draw some into the storyline like it did me. However, it might not appeal to everyone, especially with the questionable characterization seen with Obi & others. It probably won’t be a story I reach for often in terms of recommendations, but I did want to share here in case it appeals to anyone else.
Have you read Urban Outlaws? Have you read a recent MG novel? Let me know all your thoughts below!
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