Plot Summary: The first book in Anthony Horowitz’s Alex Rider series, Stormbreaker introduces readers to 14-year old Alex Rider, a boy raised by his British uncle after his parents’ death. At the beginning of the book, Alex learns that his uncle was not a banker, as he thought, but a spy for MI6 who was killed in the line of duty; the British government now wants him to finish his uncle’s mission – to infiltrate technology billionaire Herod Sayle’s empire and find out the secret behind his new computers, the Stormbreakers. Stormbreaker was made into a movie in 2006.
Critical Evaluation: The book is fast-paced, with enough gadgets and intrigue to keep readers engaged. Alex’s character is believable as the reluctant spy pushed into working for MI6, and Horowitz does not shy away from grisly outcomes. Rider’s finds his uncle’s bullet-ridden, bloodstained car in a junkyard, and a madman with a Portuguese man-of-war jellyfish figures prominently in the story. Rider is put through rigorous MI6 training with military men who try to make him fail because of his age; he is not given a free ride and we do not get the sense that any of his training or knowledge came easily. Rider is likeable as much as he is relatable – missions and gadgets aside, he is a young man coping with his uncle’s death and seemingly insurmountable circumstances in front of him, and readers will cheer him on.
Reviews: School Library Journal: “With short cliff-hanger chapters and its breathless pace, it is an excellent choice for reluctant readers.”
Booklist: “Inspired by James Bond and his own opulent but lonely boarding school upbringing, Horowitz thoughtfully balances Alex’s super-spy finesse with typical teen insecurities to create a likable hero living a fantasy come true. An entertaining, nicely layered novel, especially for boys who may not like to read but have a soft spot for good-verses-evil adventure.“
Awards: The series has received numerous awards including Children’s Book of the Year at the 2006 British Book Awards and the Red House Children’s Book Award in 2003.
Reader’s Annotation: Alex Rider thought his uncle was a banker, until he’s murdered and the secret’s out – he was an MI6 spy. Now, the British government wants 14-year-old Alex to continue his uncle’s work.
Author Information: Anthony Horowitz is a British crime author, screenwriter, and playwright for young people. His webpage features an Alex Rider minisite with information about all of the books in the Alex Rider series and downloadable desktop wallpapers. The Alex Rider website offers exhaustive information on missions, characters, and criminals in the series; readers can create user accounts on the site to receive regular updates and additional content about the series. The site also links to Alex Rider’s Facebook page and YouTube channel.
Genre: Action/adventure Subgenre: Espionage.
Booktalking Ideas: MI6 recruits Alex Rider when his uncle is killed during a mission. Do you think a 14-year-old can go through military training and complete spy missions? What would you do if you discovered that the family life you were leading was a cover-up?
Reading Level/Interest Age: 10+
Challenge Issues/Defense: Some violence. Defense: This is a secret agent novel for young teens, but the violence is not over the top for a younger audience.
Why did you include this book in the titles you selected?
I like reading espionage novels and this series has had very good feedback.