A book review for parents
This action/thriller is the second book in the "Alex Rider" series by Anthony Horowitz and is published by the Penguin Group.
Point Blank is written for kids ages 12 to 16. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.
Fourteen-year-old Alex Rider is an orphan. Three weeks prior to the opening of the first book in this series, Alex's uncle, who had been raising him, died in a car crash. Alex subsequently finds that his uncle had been a secret agent for M16, Britain's premier spy agency. M16 then forces Alex to take his uncle's place in a spy operation. That adventure constitutes the first book in this series.
Alex almost lost his life on his first spy mission, so he is now reluctant to work for M16 again. He wants to enjoy being a teenager. M16 convinces Alex to join them, however, and the young spy is immediately enrolled in an elite, international all-boy prep school called Point Blanc in France. The M16 director, Mr. Blunt, believes that the proprietors of the school, Dr. Grief and Mrs. Stellenbosch, are somehow involved with the mysterious deaths of two famous multi-millionaires.
Alex arrives at the boarding school in the Swiss Alps and realizes the small group of students already there — 14-year-old boys who are sons of wealthy, famous men around the world — are acting like robots. They talk, walk and act exactly the same. Alex finds the real boys locked in jail cells on a hidden floor of the school. The students roaming Point Blanc were cloned from Dr. Grief's DNA 14 years earlier and have been transformed into look-alikes of the real teenagers through plastic surgery. The clones are part of a complex plot to make Dr. Grief the world's ruler. Alex has the information he needs and contacts M16 to come and get him. At the last minute, M16 rescues Alex and helps him free the prisoners.
Alex's parents are dead. So is his uncle, the man who had been raising Alex and was a secret M16 spy. Alex mostly takes care of himself, though he does have a caretaker who is only briefly mentioned and never appears in the book. Also, Mrs. Jones, an older secretary at M16, mothers him as much as she is able. Alan Blunt, the director at M16, is half-heartedly kind to Alex when he wants Alex to go on a mission. Blunt doesn't care about Alex as a person; he only cares about what Alex can do for him. Throughout most of the book, Alex takes responsibility for what is happening around him and acts on his own authority. He is basically a 14-year-old living his life in one adult situation after another. Most, but not all, of the actual adults in this story are caricatures — blundering fools, bad guys or both.
Other Belief Systems
Although there are no belief systems per se, the story is definitely about good vs. evil. While some of the good-guy characters have flaws, the bad-guy characters are evil.
The narrator, a base operator and M16 director Blunt use the word h--- a few times, and Alex uses the word d--n in his thoughts.
A maintenance man is described as lying at the bottom of the Hudson River with a knife in his back and a concrete block tied to his foot. A multi-millionaire businessman steps into a rigged elevator shaft and falls to his death. A group of teenagers on a hunting spree wound several animals and leave them to die. Alex is shot at with a shotgun by these same teens but not hit. In retaliation, Alex swings a shotgun and hits one of the boys in the back, knocking him to the ground. Dr. Grief shoots a plastic surgeon in the forehead with a handgun. Alex is viciously hit in the stomach by Dr. Grief's bodybuilding personal assistant, Mrs. Stellenbosch. Dr. Grief describes how he is going to kill Alex by dissecting him alive. Alex falls from the top of a moving train, bouncing twice on the ground and landing in a wire fence. Blood pours from a gash in his head. Guards are shot and killed during an escape attempt. Alex and Mrs. Stellenbosch pummel each other in a drawn-out fight. Mrs. Stellenbosch is shot and killed, and she crashes through a window. Alex throws himself off a snowmobile that flies from a ski jump and slams into a helicopter in which Dr. Grief is escaping. The helicopter blows up with Grief inside.
If your children have read this book or someone has read it to them, consider these discussion topics:
- Alex has a strong sense of what's right and what's wrong.
On what does he base his sense of right and wrong?
Are all people’s consciences as reliable as Alex’s?
As a Christian, should you rely solely on your conscience when it comes to deciding what is right and wrong?
What kind of guidance does the Bible give about right and wrong?
- What would being a part of a family mean to Alex?
Why might Alex like to be a part of our family?
What wouldn’t Alex like about being a part of our family?
As Christians, we are adopted into God's family.
What does this mean to you, to be a son or daughter of the King and a member of our heavenly Father's family?
What might it mean to Alex?
- What do all of the students at Point Blanc do?
Why does this alarm Alex?
What would you like about all kids acting the exact same?
Why is it important that all kids not act the exact same?
Why do you think God made each person uniquely different?
How has God made you uniquely different?
Why is it important for you to be yourself instead of trying to act, talk, dress and think like everyone else?
- Why doesn’t Alex want to go on the secret spy mission to France?
What spurs him on to solve the case once he arrives?
How does Alex sacrifice to serve and free others?
What happens as a result of his sacrifice?
What have you had to do to sacrifice for others?
What happened as a result of that sacrifice?
Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. A book's inclusion does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.