by Eoin Colfer, Hyperion Books for Children, 2001, 277 pages
Worldview: Amoral. The “good guy” is a criminal. This is bound to confuse younger readers.
Style: A young adult novel with plenty of action to keep readers turning pages.
Review: Artemis Fowl is the name of a 12-year-old genius who is also a criminal mastermind. As the high-action story unfolds, it becomes clear that Artemis is, in fact, the hero–we find ourselves cheering for his nefarious plots. This is a confusing position to put a child reader into!
We also cheer for his victims, who are morally upstanding members of the fairy police. Artemis eventually makes friends with these members of the fairy police, so that the book emphasizes tribal or friendship loyalty as a supreme virtue. It puts other moral no-nos, such as thievery and deception, on the “naughty but OK” list. There are two successful thieves in the book whom the author clearly likes: Artemis and a dwarf. Also, the word “damn” appears in the book. In addition, the author makes up a fairy swear word and has his fairy police using it all the time.
Your children will probably check the Fowl books out and read them, if they have library access. My kids all have. The reason is that, despite the amoral framework, this book is a good read. The characters are memorable, there is plenty of action, and the story has a zany science-fiction quality to it.
Artemis and his bodyguard Butler are seeking to kidnap a fairy and hold it for ransom, in order to enhance the depleted family fortune. Turns out the fairies have mostly left the surface of the earth to colonize the center of the earth, driven below-ground by human activity. Their advanced technology allows them to travel back and forth to the surface.
Artemis and Butler manage to kidnap a fairy police woman named Holly Short. Ransom is eventually paid, and partly stolen by the dwarf thief At the end, Holly is released, Artemis is rich, and so is the dwarf. On the way, Holly has saved Butler’s life and that of Butler’s sister. And she heals Artemis’ depressed mother. All’s well that ends well. Or is it?
This imaginative story will draw your teen in. Be sure to discuss the world view.–Phyllis Wheeler