Title: Artemis Fowl (Artemis Fowl #1)
Author: Eoin Colfer
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Release Date: April 26, 2001
Synopsis (from Amazon):
Twelve-year-old Artemis Fowl is a millionaire, a genius-and, above all, a criminal mastermind. But even Artemis doesn’t know what he’s taken on when he kidnaps a fairy, Captain Holly Short of the LEPrecon Unit. These aren’t the fairies of bedtime stories; these fairies are armed and dangerous.
Artemis thinks he has them right where he wants them but then they stop playing by the rules.
Why I Think Boys May Enjoy This
If ever there was a book series that could be used to introduce the concept of “anti-hero” to a middle grade audience, it is Artemis Fowl (or, you know, my novella Anchihiiroo – Origin of an Antihero, but I digress). Artemis Fowl II, in the debut book of this series, is the very definition of someone willing to do anything it takes (even a little kidnapping and ransom-demanding) for what is ultimately a good cause (trying to save his mother). One of my favorite things about this series is that Artemis, being a genius, has a very large vocabulary. The diction in this book is a lot more advanced and complex than many other middle grade books and I personally used it as a benchmark in my own writing for not talking down to a young audience (which I find many, many middle grade and even young adult books do). Colfer has found that great sweet spot to challenge young readers without dismissing their capabilities.
That being said, the story is a simple one that is very easy and fun to follow. The basic frame of the story follows the “heist” format. There are twists and turns and plans on top of plans. Sometimes they work and sometimes they fail. Sometimes they seem to fail but end up working (think of a fairy tale version of Ocean’s 11). Apparently Colfer himself has referred to it as “Die Hard with fairies” with which I can’t argue. Colfer has created his own sub-society of magical fairy creatures that presents the underlying mystery and magic to the series. At the same time, Artemis is a regular (well, as regular as a multi-millionaire genius pre-teen with a bit of an evil mastermind complex can be) human kid who breaks open the mysteries of this underworld.
When I first discovered this series years ago, I was excited to find a middle grade series that had a protagonist that wasn’t your bubbly “chosen one” stereotype. Artemis, due to his intelligence and resources, is way deeper and more complex than your typical middle grade hero. That alone is worth a read. Couple that with a fun and colorful underworld full of faeries, gnomes, and other supernatural beings and it’s a can’t-miss.
This book is more than appropriate for the youngest of readers. Any violence is cartoonish in nature, for the most part. There are no language or sexual content concerns either.
As the series goes on, there are points that get a little darker, but never does Colfer waver from the PG family friendly nature of this first book.
As an aside: there is also a wonderful graphic novel adaptation of this first book that can serve to help a struggling reader or a reader who might need a little more visual aides (or just someone who really likes graphic novels!).