Book Review: Urban Outlaws by Peter Jay Black

picture of urban outlaws book

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  
Middle Grade; Urban Adventure 
Published: 2014
$16.99 (hardcover);
Place: Amazon,  B & N, Book DepositoryGoodReads, 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. picture of urban outlaws book

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! 

Happy Reading!

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