I recently received a copy of the middle-grades book Jack Templar, Monster Hunter by Jeff Gunhus for review, and quickly read it from start to finish. The book is targeted (as you can probably guess from the title) to middle school aged boys for the most part, and falls in the Harry Potter and Percy Jackson category of ‘boy finds out he’s special and enters a battle that has gone on long before him.’ In this case, Jack finds out that he comes from a long line of monster hunters, and that on his 14th birthday they will be allowed to attack him. His birthday brings on a number of other changes, as he suddenly is stronger, more agile, and has a lot more stamina. I won’t go over the entire plot in case you decide to give it a read, but of course Jack goes through considerable heartache and difficulty to reach his goal.
One of the things that I liked about the book was the stance it takes against bullying. There is a key scene where Jack stands up to the school bully in order to protect one of his friends. I am absolutely for any book that puts it into kids’ minds that bullying isn’t the right thing to do. While the characters aren’t completely fleshed out in this book, it’s clear that this is being set up as a series, so I imagine that as it goes on, those characters will be more fleshed out.
Even though this book is marketed towards boys, there were actually a lot of strong female characters, which is a good thing for boys to be reading about. Jack is taught about the monsters by Eva, a girl (and love interest), his aunt who raised him makes a very difficult sacrifice in order to save his life, and there is a promise of another very strong female character to come in the next book.
While this was not a perfect book and has its problems, so did the first Harry Potter. It was an enjoyable—and quick—read, and I would want to read the next entry in the series in order to find out what happens to Jack and all of his friends. The book provides some positive role models, and although there is some violence, it is almost all in the heat of battle, and usually involves the monsters. If you have a reluctant reader in middle school, this is the perfect book to get them excited about books.