Point Blank – Alex Rider book 2

Point Blank

Author: Anthony Horowitz

Publication: Speak, 2006

Pages: 304

Overall Rating:  bth_4-star-rating_zps38e772a0[1]                      

Rating for Action: bth_4-star-rating_zps38e772a0[1]

Quantity of Action: bth_4-star-rating_zps38e772a0[1]

Age Category: 9-12

Brief Summary: Alex pulls off a daring stunt to put a local drug dealer behind bars.  It’s a success, but his actions land him in jail and ultimately back in the hands of MI6.  He’s sent to Switzerland to investigate an exclusive school for young delinquents – the Point Blanc Academy in the French Alps.  He’s there to see if he can find a connection between the mysterious deaths of two men, both of whom had sons at the Academy.  At first, everything about the school appears normal, if somewhat eccentric.  But before long Alex begins to make some unusual discoveries, and what he learns both blows his mind and places him in mortal danger.

Age of Main Character: 14

What I Liked the Most: Alex really is the perfect teen spy.  He has all the emotions of a teenager who’s lost his family and been forced into something he doesn’t want to do, and all the skills and daring of the most accomplished adult spies.  It makes it a real pleasure to follow his adventures.

I also like that, with few exceptions, Horowitz leaves Alex to solve his problems on his own with little help from adults.  During the course of the novel there’s only one instance in which Alex is saved by an adult.  Other than that he handles everything – even the most dangerous, life threatening situations – entirely on his own.

There’s also a little twist at the end, a final action scene just when you think it’s all over, that is wonderfully fun and inventive and ultimately leaves you guessing, at least a little bit, as to whether or not Alex has survived.

What I Liked the Least: For the most part, I’m a big fan of over the top action scenes, but there was one scene in this book that was a bit much even for me.  In at, Alex has to ski down a mountain using a makeshift snowboard made out of an ironing board that he’s cut down to size and attached to his shoes with a couple strips of cloth.  Before setting out on the ride, Alex admits he’s nervous because he’s only had two or three lessons and never tackled anything harder than intermediate slope.  And yet, he races down the equivalent of a double black diamond slope with the ease and skill of a world champion snowboarder, taking out enemy snowmobiles along the way and performing some incredible mid air feats.  I thoroughly enjoyed the scene while it was unfolding, but there was a part of my mind that remained detached, unable to fully get into it simply because what Alex was doing was so clearly beyond his abilities.

How Good was the Action?  Excellent.  Over the course of the novel Alex takes down a group of drug dealers with a truly inspired stunt, evades a group of hunters, outruns a train, climbs the inside of a chimney, sneaks through the school, breaks into a prison, snowboards down a mountain with snowmobiles on his tail, gets into a pitched battle inside the school, and has a knock down drag out fight atop a blazing building.  Each scene is very well done.  I could feel Alex’s emotions throughout – his fear, his excitement, and his rage – but the emotions in no way detracted from the action, which was top notch.  Like I said above, even the most over-the-top scenes were still a lot of fun to read.

I particularly liked the scene where he’s climbing up the inside of a chimney.  It was easy to feel his fear and claustrophobia amidst all the darkness and soot as the walls grew narrower and felt like they were closing in around him.

How Engaging was the Story?  The story is fast paced.  It’s divided into four major sections – Alex’s pursuit of a drug dealer, Alex being immersed in his new character, Alex arriving at and escaping from Point Blanc, and Alex’s return to the school with a crack SAS unit.  Each section was well done and exciting enough to hold my attention throughout.  The distances between one action scene and the next were relatively short, but that wasn’t done at the expense of a thin story or lack of character development.  Even with all the action, Horowitz still created a complex and compelling story – maybe somewhat shorter and less in depth than later novels in the series, but thoroughly satisfying all the same.  

Overall Assessment: This is a fun, action packed read.  Through it, we continue to learn more about Alex’s character – his compassion and his temper, his sense of honor and his tendency to take rash and impetuous actions that get him in trouble.   It’s a good addition to the series, and a great choice if you’re looking for something that combines both a serious story and an adrenaline thrill ride.

Profanity: None

Sex: A little mild flirtation early in the book.

Violence: Definitely.  People get shot, there are fist fights, someone’s assassinated, while others die in helicopter explosions and snowmobile crashes.  Alex is almost certainly responsible for some of those deaths, and is himself threatened with a slow and hideous death.  That said, there’s very little blood and none of the deaths are gory.

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