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I can't imagine a better book to introduce a young mind to science fiction. The characters have real motives and feelings. The plot hold up. The images engage the imagination without bogging it down. The humor makes it a delight to read.
If you know a twelve year old who is ready to enter their Golden Age, give them this book. Neither of you will regret it.
How John’s problems are resolved is an exposition in a teenager’s maturation along with a very different (for Heinlein) portrayal of a truly competent and efficient government bureaucrat (for a completely opposed view of civil servants see his Friday or Stranger in a Strange Land). Along the way, Heinlein makes points about child rearing, the sometimes ridiculous workings of the law (along with some hilarious courtroom proceedings), prejudice, advertising/political campaigns, the shortcomings of making unfounded assumptions, self-blinded egotists, and the right of self-determination, all buried inside a fun and very good adventure story.
Heinlein never wrote ‘down’ to his readers, one of the aspects that make his so-called juveniles so enjoyable for readers of all ages. Some younger readers may have a little trouble with the vocabulary he uses, though the meanings of his words choices are almost always inferable from the context. My 12 year old, who is currently reading this, runs into an unknown word about every two pages. While this is slowing him down a little, it is not detracting from his enjoyment of the story (and whether he knows it or not, he is learning a considerable amount from this book).
Character development is a little sparse and the story line is comparatively simple. The conclusion has perhaps a bit of a dues-ex-machina feel to it, and perhaps a little bit too much of ‘happily-ever-after’. This is not the best of Heinlein’s young adult books, but is a very entertaining and enjoyable book, with a rather muted philosophical discourse that will fly under the radar of younger readers – but will help shape their outlook on life and the proper actions of a human.
--- Reviewed by Patrick Shepherd (hyperpat)
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