Have you ever read a book that was so good you had a hard time putting it down? Or how about when you’ve finished a book and you wish there was just one more in the series? True bookworms will understand these feelings and have lived through this scenario over and over again. However, it is a rare thing to find a book, or better yet, a series that captivates not only your mind, but also your emotions. I have read countless books over the years, most of which I have long forgotten or lovingly recall reading once with no desire of reading it again, no matter how much I enjoyed it. In all my years of reading, there has never been a book, or in this case, a series that I have enjoyed more than Alex Rider.
While this may come as a surprise to most, fans of these books understand the obsession. A brief synopsis would go something like this: A 14 year old British boy suddenly finds himself in the world of spies and espionage, facing a series of events including, but not limited to: gadgets, explosions, undercover work, and a variety of crazed people with selfish ideals trying to dominate the world/take revenge/etc.
After hearing this, you may think: that sounds like a 14 year old version of James Bond. Yes, that was the original inspiration; however, the author, Anthony Horowitz, took it so much farther.
About the Series…
Originally released in 2000, we are introduced to Alex Rider in Stormbreaker. By 2011, we see Alex for the last time, as a very changed boy. Thankfully, Anthony Horowitz decided to give us one more book in the series with Russian Roulette (2013), only this time, we see a much different perspective—the life of Yassen Gregorovitch. By the time you reach the end of the series, you’ve managed to go through 9 adventures with Alex and 1 with Yassen. For most series, a trilogy is more than sufficient. However, with Alex Rider, 9 didn’t seem to be quite enough. Every story is unique and no less interesting than the story before it. In fact, the farther you go through the series, the more interesting they become.
“Anan Sukit was back on his feet, his face dark with fury, his eyes ablaze. He had pulled a gun out of an inside pocket of his suit. Unbelieving, Alex watched as he brought it around and aimed. Sukit was going to shoot him, right there, in front of all these people…a punishment for the trick that had just been played. And there was nothing Alex could do, nowhere to hid. He watched as the cold eye of the muzzle focused on his chest. Then all the lights went out.” (Snakehead, p. 123-124)
Extending beyond the borders of England, Alex finds himself in well-known locations, such as Paris and the continent of Africa, to other obscure places, like the French Alps and space itself. With each location comes its own set of challenges. Alex must use his wit and survival skills to make it through jungles, desserts, and mountainous regions. Horowitz took each of these locations and meticulously studied it—using each environment to his advantage, using nature’s creatures and vegetation to both help and hinder Alex’s progress.
If you have read through the Alex Rider books, one thing you will notice is that everything happens within a year. The series opens with Alex being just 14 years old; at the close of the series, he turns 15. So what happened during this short period of time?
The first few books in the series, especially Stormbreaker, is much more lighthearted. Not that it is childish, just lighthearted. Alex is young and inexperienced in the world of espionage. While he never leaves you bored or disinterested, Alex has not faced his worst enemies yet. As you progress through the books, the plots become thicker, the enemies more sinister, and the effects on Alex more taxing. By the end of the series, we see a more mature, yet broken, Alex Rider. While his future is hopeful, Horowitz really wanted to emphasize the toll that these missions would have on Alex—and I appreciate that. It gives a sense of realism to the books. As you read through the different missions, you can’t help but realize that while Alex is invaluable to MI6 (and the world), the consequences are unavoidable.
“The two crocodiles were directly underneath Alex, climbing on top of each other, snapping at the air. For the moment he was safe. But he was stretched out, hanging in space, clinging to the pipe by his fingers.” (Crocodile Tears, p. 310)
Another great feature that Anthony Horowitz incorporated was the story of Alex’s life. Never does he give you all the information from the beginning. As you make your way through the books, you slowly learn more about Alex, his family, and who he is. As you get little pieces of the puzzle, it draws you into the story and captivates you.
Due to the author’s detail in the character’s development, it brings the character alive. You really get to know Alex and who he is. Even his appearance is well described, making it that much easier to visualize him. Having read all 10 books, it is easy to become attached to Alex and feel as though he is a good friend.
While Horowitz focused on the main character, he definitely did not neglect the others. Each book contains an assortment of new and familiar characters. Characters such as Ms. Jones and Alan Blunt quickly become familiar “faces” in the series, due to their strong character development. The author made sure to give strong personality attributes and physical description of each character, bringing each one to life.
Obviously: teens. Not so obvious: adults. Yes, I highly recommend these books for adults too. Why? Because it’s so easy to forget that you’re reading about a 14 year old. The entire series is written in somewhat of a serious tone. Unlike so much other teen fiction, Alex Rider doesn’t have teen parties, high school drama, or relationship issues. Anthony Horowitz did an amazing job focusing on Alex himself and his missions.
One of the things I love about the series is how “clean” they are. There’s little to no language, and no sexuality or unnecessary violence. Just pure action and adventure. Everyone has their limits to how much they are willing to read, especially when it comes to what their children are reading. The great thing is that due to the lack of “bad things” in these books, almost any age range can enjoy them, from start to finish.
With strong character development, captivating plots, and 10 books in the series, you will love Alex Rider from the first page to the last. So if you haven’t found these books in your library or local bookstore, I suggest you track down the first book of the series and go from there. You won’t be sorry you did.
(Featured image source: http://www.alexrideradventures.com/books.html)