Please understand that all my reviews focus on the interests of my middle school students.
All my top ten favorite heroes/heroines come from YA literature. And now there is Sam Small. Wow, that little guy moved me.
Higson is masterful at the fast pace action plot. You won't get bored, that's for sure. There are two story lines, but he moves them so quickly there are no frustrating gaps in the action. He leaves you guessing, but you are also ready to see what is happening in the other line. His character development is uneven. For example, there is a character with a dysfunctional Napoleonic personality, but Higson does not let you see enough of the kid's psyche to really get it. Other characters, however, are well developed, and I think Higson really gets kids. Finally, be warned that Higson does not mind killing characters he makes you like. I am afraid that Collins has started a trend in YA literature that we will be living with for some time. In all, I found it a very good action book, although the ending is very strange.
So why only three stars? Go back to my first line. About two hundred pages into the book Higson introduces some mild profanity which quickly escalates into moderately severe. It caught me a bit off-guard, since there was no hint of it coming. This moved the book to the "Parental Permission" shelf in my classroom library. There is one sexually oriented derogatory remark. None of this is gratuitous, however, and you know that kids would talk this way; it's just that if Riordan, Patterson, Rowling, Nimmo, etc. can write great books for the YA crowd and leave that stuff to our imagination, why can't others?