Theodore Boone: The Accused
This legal drama is the third book in the " Theodore Boone" series by John Grisham and is published by Dutton Children's Books, a division of Penguin's Young Readers Group.
Theodore Boone: The Accused is written for ages 8 to 12. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.
Crude or Profane Language
Drug and Alcohol Content
Other Negative Elements
Picking up a thread from the first book, The Accused begins with the second trial of Pete Duffy, whose first trial for murder was declared a mistrial. When the trial opens on Monday morning, however, the court learns that the accused has disappeared. Not even his defense team knows his whereabouts, and another mistrial is declared.
Theodore Boone, a bright, often irreverent 13-year-old, aspires to be a first-rate courtroom lawyer or judge someday. Recognizing his expertise and interest in law, his school principal signs a release note permitting him to attend the trial, and Theo witnesses the mistrial, then returns to school.
Back at school, Theo discovers that his locker has been broken into, and his ball cap and other items are missing. He unwisely decides against reporting it because it would take too long and entail too much paperwork. Next, when he mounts his bike to leave, he is alarmed to see that his bike tire is slashed. He has the tire repaired and almost has a normal day the next school day.
Tuesday afternoon, following his scout meeting, he finds his tire slashed, again. He has it repaired, again, and then continues on to his parents' law office. Theo is unable to find time to talk with his parents about his locker and tires being slashed because they are too busy with clients. Since they are busy with clients, he goes into his "office" to do his homework. Suddenly a large rock smashes through his window, shattering glass everywhere.
Wednesday comes, and Theo feels sure it'll be better than Tuesday. He begins to have misgivings when he is called into the principal's office to meet with two detectives. They suspect Theo of possessing stolen property. They inspect his locker and find three computer tablets that Theo doesn't own. He doesn't know how they ended up in his locker. Theo phones his parents, but neither is available. Next he phones Uncle Ike, who comes to the school at once. The ensuing discussion reveals that an anonymous caller told the detectives they would find the stolen property from a computer store crime committed the night before in Theo's locker.
After school, Theo makes a trip with his parents to the police station to record a formal statement. Later that evening, as the family dines on their usual Wednesday Chinese takeout dinner, Theo gets an urgent text message to check his email. When he does, he sees that an anonymous email has circulated throughout town with a picture attached. It shows him leaving the police station with his parents, and the sender captions it by writing that Theo was arrested for burglarizing a computer store and will go to juvenile court next week. Mr. and Mrs. Boone encourage Theo to fight back.
Thursday, Theo reluctantly returns to school knowing he'll have to endure taunts the whole day. While he's in the cafeteria, a group of his buddies chant, "Guilty, guilty, guilty." Later, a school troublemaker calls him a jailbird. Soon after, a fight erupts in the hall, landing four of the boys in trouble with the principal. Theo and the rest earn a two-day suspension. While later discussing his punishment with his parents, the police arrive with further evidence of Theo's guilt: his Minnesota Twins cap was found at the crime scene. Armed with a warrant, police search the Boone family home but find no further evidence.
Friday morning, Theo, bored of school suspension, leaves the law office to visit Uncle Ike. Ike has a theory that the perpetrator of the computer store crime is the child of one of Mrs. Boone’s divorce clients. One of his friends tells Theo that he heard of a guy trying to sell brand new computer tablets in the high school parking lot, and he promises to find out the name. Later, Theo attends a special merit badge meeting. When the meeting is over, he is upset to find his bike tire slashed, again.
Theo goes to see Uncle Ike on Saturday morning and tells him about the guy trying to sell the tablet at the high school. Ike gives him $50 so that Theo can arrange a deal to buy one and thereby identify who has the stolen equipment. The next day, Theo learns from a friend of a friend that a seventh-grader named Jonah Finn was seen with a new cell phone at school, and seventh-graders are not permitted to have cell phones at school. Then Jonah was seen in the library secretly playing with a computer tablet.
When Theo meets with the principal on Monday morning, he reluctantly provides information about Jonah and the cell phone. One thing leads to another, and ultimately Jonah and his brother, Jessie, prove to be the criminals; and Theo is declared innocent.
While he is free on bond, Pete Duffy is seen attending church. In the courtroom, the bailiff uses a Bible for witnesses to place their hands on when they swear they will tell the truth. The Boone family attends church on Sunday. One of the older women in the church tells them she is praying for Theo. She is described as a terrible gossip. Theo thinks that she should save her prayers for people who are truly in need. Theo likes the pastor, the Rev. Koker, because he is young and gives humorous, short sermons, unlike the "old dude" before him, who was boring and long-winded. The Rev. Koker gives a sermon on the Eighth Commandment, "proclaimed by Moses," about stealing and its various forms. The second Sunday of each month, the Boones get together with three other families from church for brunch and analyze the sermon or discuss politics. The host this time is an 80-year-old church elder and his wife.
Other Belief Systems
Theo has a nightmare in which police shoot at Pete Duffy from all sides. He screams as he falls from a high bridge into the river. People in nearby boats cheer when he splashes into the water.
A "good" fight occurs among the boys in the school hall. One boy punches another in the face, and his eye swells closed. Theo, at the bottom of the pile, gets kicked in the head and suffers a puffy lip with a little blood.
Vince, the paralegal, tells Theo a story about how he dealt with a bully when he was a school kid. He loaded his lunchbox with rocks and hit the bully in the face with it. The bully needed 18 stitches, and it left a scar. Theo thinks the story is "awesome."
If your children have read this book or someone has read it to them, consider these discussion topics:
- Theo, after his punishment of suspension for his part in the fight, thinks to himself that he does not like to break rules; yet he often disobeys rules when it suits his purpose. List how many rules Theo breaks in just the first chapter (riding his bike through stop signs, riding through yards, lying to a courtroom official, accessing the courtroom through an unofficial entrance, and so on).
- What do you see wrong about his reasoning about breaking rules?
- What other rules does he break in this story?
- Is it OK to break rules when it's convenient?
How do you determine right from wrong?
Have you ever been accused of doing something wrong when you were innocent?
- How did it make you feel?
- What actions did you take?
- Did you talk to anyone about it?
How was it resolved?
Right and wrong seem difficult for Theo to determine at times.
- Why might he be confused?
- He often felt "lousy" when he persisted in doing something he thought was wrong.
- Why might he have felt that way?
- Was Uncle Ike a trustworthy confidant?
Whom do you trust to confide in when you have problems?
When you are able to read what Theo is thinking privately, does it affect how much you trust him?
- Look up the definition of humility, then read Romans 12:3.
- What does Theo say or do that is condescending?
- How can you tell he thinks too highly of himself?
- What are some ways you keep yourself from feeling superior or better than those around you?
Law breaking: Theo has no qualms about breaking or bending rules and challenging authority when it suits his purpose. For example, he bicycles through stop signs, lies to a courtroom official and steals a password from his mother's law office computer in order to access sensitive information about her clients.
Gambling: Two men bet each other on whether Pete Duffy will be captured. Uncle Ike plays poker.
Condescension: Theo's wise-guy attitude persists as in earlier books in the series; he at least realizes that voicing some of his thoughts and opinions won't help his cause, so he wisely keeps them to himself.
Alcohol/smoking: Theo once gave advice to the school secretary when her brother was nailed for drunk driving. Uncle Ike sips a beer when Theo drops in for his weekly visit, and he starts the weekend with two glasses of wine to accompany his lunch. Ike smokes a pipe, creating a blue fog in the room when Theo visits. VFW men drink beer in the upstairs of the building where the Boy Scouts meet.
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Readability Age Range
8 to 12
Dutton Children's Books, a division of Penguin's Young Readers Group