Robert B. Parker’s sophomore effort into YA fiction delivers more action and better pacing than his first. The Boxer And The Spy is also set in today’s world rather than the 1940s as Edenville Owls was. As an older reader who’s been reading Parker’s books since the 1970s, the earlier time period was no problem for me, but I wondered how many actual YA readers really understood everything that was going on after World War II.
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.