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The Boxer and the Spy Paperback – Jun 25 2009
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[U]ndeniable appeal to teen readers. School Library Journal
About the Author
Robert B. Parker was the author of more than fifty books. He died in January 2010.
Top Customer Reviews
The mystery isn't all that mysterious; the main mystery is how two high school students will be able to bring out the truth: A high school student is found dead and most adults presume it was suicide related to using steroids. Terry doesn't believe it and starts asking around.
His detection is interspaced with boxing lessons from his fifty-five year-old friend, George. There's a bullying jock at the high school who tries to stop Terry, but Terry jabs on. In the background are some greedy adults looking out for themselves at the expense of everyone else.
I would have loved to read this book when I was a young teen. I also loved it as a 61-year-old man. I suspect the appeal wouldn't be as great for those in the 25-45 age range.
I look forward to reading other books for younger readers by Mr. Parker.
Thanx to Ace Atkins for picking up Spenserian tale. Nice job... And not an easy one.
Its been a helluva ride from Godwulf!!!!!!
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Terry half persuades his best friend Abby to help him investigate the death. However, he makes little progress until his trainer retired professional boxer George encourages him to hold his head up, jab away, and not quit. Heeding that advice, Terry keeps digging not aware the danger he brings to himself and Abby by someone who wants the ruling to remain suicide.
Obviously targeting the teen crowd, Robert B. Parker provides an engaging high school mystery starring a young sleuth trying to uncover the truth about the recent death of a classmate. With a strong support cast from George to cigarette smoking Beverly, Suzi and Tank to Mr. Principal and more, the story line is fast-paced from the first jab to the last as Terry and Abby follow clues that lead them to danger.
The tide later brought in Jason's dead body. The rumor around school was that he had used steroids and committed suicide. The cast of characters that are introduced on both sides of the law form the backbone of the story involving the unrelenting quest to clear Jason's name and uncover the criminal element in William Dawes Regional High School. The main protagonist is fifteen-year-old Terry Novack who is working extremely hard learning how to box from George, a black fifty-five-year-old former boxer who works at the local gym. Terry is extremely dedicated to following all the rules, regulations, and training regimens that George sets out. The idea is to find out if Terry truly has the proper character to be a boxer before he actually gets in the ring. Throughout the story George is instrumental not only in the physical and mental part of boxing, but he also conveys sage advice to Terry in his own unique brand of English, that includes numerous sentences that are devoid of many integral verbs and adjectives. Terry's trusty sidekick is his good friend and burgeoning love interest Abby Hall. Abby is a tremendous student, extremely cute, and becomes the "spy" to Terry's "boxer" in this coming of age story of loyalty and the many obstacles in growing up in today's young world of dwindling role models.
While just about all the other kids in school thought Jason was gay and didn't care that he died, Terry remembered that years ago when his own Dad had died, that the day of his Dad's wake, "there was a kid, by himself, Jason Green, wearing a suit coat and tie. He walked past the funeral parlor man at the door, who looked at him as if he didn't belong, and came straight up to Terry. Hi, he said. I wanted to tell you something. My Father died when I was ten, Jason said, after a while you won't feel so bad as you do now. Terry nodded. You'll get used to it, Jason said. Terry nodded again. I just wanted you to know, Jason said. Thank you, Terry said. Thanks for coming."
That memory empowered Terry to enlist his (girl) friend Abby and all their other friends as they fought the powers that be at the school that included the muscle-bound hot-tempered principal Mr. Bullard, All-State football player Kip Carter, and even Gubernatorial candidate Mrs. Trent, as Terry would not be stopped short of his goal of clearing Jason's name. Terry, Abby, and their friends tackle the questions of steroid use, first kisses, and love and sex, at the right time in the right way.
I recommend this book to readers all across the age spectrum. Parents can feel very confident that if they give this book as a gift to teenagers that the right message will be presented. Older Robert B. Parker fans will take a small delight in recognizing characteristics in George that resemble Hawk, and Terry and Abby could almost be a teenage Spenser and Susan. A delightful book.
This novel was quite entertaining and enjoyable. It was interesting to see Parker take a 15 year old character and start to build him into the same kind of self-contained man that we see in Spenser. Terry is also somewhat of a loner, with a dead father and always drunk mother, but he raises above this disadvantage. He has found a father figure in a retired boxer, George, who is teaching Terry to box and how to be a man. This relationship is really more interesting than the plot itself, and in some ways more believable.
Overall, I'd have to give this effort a definite thumbs up. I could hardly put it down once I started it.
As in his first novel, Parker develops a mystery for his young protagonist, Terry Novak, that spills out of the adult world. Parker spends a lot of time getting the young heroes acquainted with the adult world, though I believe that today's kids are a lot more acclimated to that world than Parker's characters. Still, Terry Novak is a kid I would have loved to know back when I was a freshman in high school, and I bet there are prospective readers out there who would feel the same way. He's got honor, vision, and a sense of himself that are characteristic of Parker's heroes and heroines.
The mystery wraps around the death of Jason Green. Terry knew Jason as a friend, and the relationship takes on special meaning when Parker reveals the tie that bound them. While everyone else seems content to believe Jason committed suicide, Terry just doesn't buy it. He (the boxer) enlists the aid of his best gal pal, Abby (the spy), and they set about trying to figure out what really happened.
The relationship between Terry and Abby takes on as much weight as the mystery. This isn't surprising to those of use that know Parker the way we do, but I believe the actual YA crowd might like the interaction between the two, though a few of them might wonder about how naïve the two are. Today's kids, while not always callous, definitely have an idea of how the real world works in many ways.
Parker's trademark clipped prose and rapid-fire dialogue provides plenty of muscle and drives the story along at a good clip. The scenes are powerful and evocative, without being too demanding. The level the books are written on would serve teachers needing something with an easier reading mechanics while maintaining a high interest. Educations dealing with high-risk students should definitely look into Parker's YA efforts. The short chapters make reading just one more page way too irresistible. Librarians and reading specialists should take note of Parker's YA books for that aspect alone.
I really enjoyed the boxing angle of the story too. Any longtime reader of Parker's works will know that his private eye, Spenser, has a history of being a boxer. The love that Parker obviously holds for the sport is immediately apparent during his accounts of Terry's workouts and talks with George, the black boxer that trains him. However, I would have liked to know more about what brought Terry into the ring and what his mom thought about him boxing. I know the adults are supposed to stay pretty much off screen in a YA book, but this one really cried out for most exposure of Terry and his family life.
Figuring out who the villain is and what's actually going on was relatively easy. The fun part was watching what Terry and Abby were going to do to get to the bottom of the whole mess. I watched how their minds worked as they narrowed toward instated the back, and that made me remember by own childhood. Parker serves up nostalgia for the adults and excitement for the YA readers.
Jason: He lost his father and his mother got drunk a lot. He didn't like sports but he did like old movies and he liked to draw. He was taking the technical arts curriculum at William Dawes Regional and he wanted to be a landscape designer. He was believed to be gay, but his interests were the only reasons given. Those likes and dislikes made this young man gay? I couldn't see why characters came to this conclusion.
Terry and Abby: They worked well together. Some thought they were a couple. They claimed they weren't but the way they related to each other it seemed as if their close friendship would be more someday. I liked that Abby wanted her `first time' to mean something.
George: Terry's mentor doesn't just teach him to box (quite a few boxing lessons take place in this story) but he also speaks words of wisdom because he wants Terry to make good choices.
Mr. Bullard: The principal of William Dawes Regional high school is not a likeable character.
This is the first Robert B. Parker novel I've read. The mystery was a page-turner not really because it was exciting or thrilling, but because I wanted to find out who killed Jason. Even though I didn't get to really know him, I liked him. It was also a quick read; forty-seven of the shortest chapters I have ever seen in a young adult novel. There is a fight scene and the use of steroids is addressed. There is also a bit of profanity and the mention of sexual activity but it isn't written in detail. Even though there are teenagers of high school age, this story is one I believe mature middle school students would enjoy.