Reviews for Capt. Hook : The Adventures Of A Notorious Youth

Booklist Reviews 2005 July #1
Gr. 7-10. Hart wrote the screenplay for the 1991 film Hook and in this sprawling novel, he imagines the notorious villain's troubled youth. When he enters England's storied Eton school as a teen, James (the future Hook) has never known his mother and has only met his aristocratic father a few times. He channels his loneliness and rage into superior scholarship, plotting wild "devices of revenge" against sadistic classmates. At last, he escapes to the high seas, but he unwittingly boards a slave ship that reveals horrifying brutality and family secrets. Hart's novel is much more challenging and dense than Peter and the Starcatchers (2004), Ridley Pearson's and Dave Barry's spin on the Peter Pan story. The elevated language, slow pacing, and lengthy specifics of swordplay and Etonian culture may deter some readers; others may be startled by the bloody torture, both at school and at sea. Still, some determined, sophisticated readers will be pulled in by the magical, tall-tale details; James' triumph over bullies; the exciting adventures; and the thought-provoking portrait of a villain who is capable of both murder and great sympathy. ((Reviewed July 2005)) Copyright 2005 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2006 Spring
Purportedly the school years of Peter Pan's villain, this confusing, overwritten, and somewhat creepy affair is all over the map. With oddly unexplained elements such as the hero's yellow blood, over-attention to Eton canings, an abortively unresolved romance, and a tacked-on sea episode with African slaves, the book showers unjustified admiration on its passionate but unlikable hero. Copyright 2006 Horn Book Guide Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2005 August #1
In a first novel only tangentially related to the film Hook (1991), for which he wrote the screenplay, Hart casts the renowned villain as a strong-minded teenager undergoing some early formative experiences both on and off the playing fields of Eton. It's actually two tales rammed together, passing without transition from a slang-thick, Tom Brown-style school story-"Topping swank good form, scugs!"-in which young James, a lord's unacknowledged illegitimate son, repeatedly gets the better of brutal upperclassman Arthur Darling, to a brisk nautical adventure aboard the slave ship Sea Witch . Surrounded by a supporting cast of "lost men and boys" that features chubby, steadfast school chum "Jolly" Roger and a surprisingly canny Smee, James cuts a dashing, dangerous figure from first to last. He's driven to violence by pride and anger rather than malice, and left at the end with a new moniker (but both hands), a newly liberated ship with which to search for the Neverland of his dreams and a yen for immortality. A thought-provoking character portrait, though modern readers will make heavy weather of the first part's dated references and dialogue. (Fantasy. 11-13) Copyright Kirkus 2005 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2005 August #5

Swimming against the books-to-film tide, this novel from the screenwriter of Steven Spielberg's Hook attempts to explain how the captain's childhood made him the nefarious pirate he became. (It's his father's fault.) The author takes the scant details about Hook in J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan ("piercing" blue eyes, mustard-colored blood, a fondness for trends set by King Charles II) and spins them into a backstory beginning the day 15-year-old James, the illegitimate son of "Lord B," arrives at Eton. The upperclassmen, led by house captain Arthur Darling, identify him immediately as in need of comeuppance and hang him with the moniker James Matthew "Bastard." (Readers never learn James or Lord B's real last name--is the author suggesting Hook was Barrie?) A sharp student and accomplished swordsman, James relishes the notoriety. He and best friend, "Jolly Roger" Davies, become victims of vicious hazing, but perpetrators of equally nasty revenge. They triumphantly lead the underclassmen to victory against Darling's gang in a traditional Eton game, while the Queen and a visiting princess (for whom James falls) look on. James leaves Eton in a blaze of glory, but the story slogs on past this natural end. The author attempts to turn the heretofore conscienceless James into a hero when the fellow saves some Africans from a slaver's ship. The dialogue adds sparkle ("Topping swank!" is a compliment of the highest order) as do Helquist's occasional full-page black-and-white drawings, which emit an air of swashbuckling brio often missing from the text. Ages 10-up. (Sept.)

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School Library Journal Reviews 2005 October

Gr 6 Up -Opening with young James's arrival at Eton and following him to the beginning of his life at sea, this is a disturbing and engaging portrait of a young villain. At school, he feuds with the young Arthur Darling and falls in love with the forbidden Sultana Ananova. After taking his revenge on Darling and pursuing Ananova, James and his friend Roger join the crew of the Sea Witch , a ragged ship with a cruel captain. When its identity as a slave ship is revealed, James sides with the slaves to earn his own name, Hook. Throughout the story, his dreams of finding a magical Neverland set the stage for his future role in Barrie's classic story. Hart, whose screenwriting credits include the movie Hook , has taken information from Barrie's Peter Pan , including his protagonist's attendance at Eton, his yellow blood, and his unusual appearance, and used it to create a character of his own. James's illegitimate status and its prominence in the story seems to be Hart's own invention, and while it provides ample motivation for James's actions, it takes away from the story's appeal to younger Peter Pan fans, who may also be confused by some aspects of British school life. This is a much darker Pan prequel than Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson's Peter and the Starcatchers (Hyperion, 2004). Helquist's illustrations add slightly to the text, but seem an attempt to appeal to "Unfortunate Events" fans. Overall, this is a detailed look both at Victorian life and what a young Hook may have been like.-Beth L. Meister, Pleasant View Elementary School, Franklin, WI

[Page 161]. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

VOYA Reviews 2005 December
James, the illegitimate son of an English lord, is a new student at Eton, an exclusive private school to which his father, Lord B., has used his government connections to have James admitted. James feels like an outcast among his peers, and he truly is different from his classmates. He is charismatic, mischievous, brilliant, and a born leader, full of spirit and afraid of no one. After falling for and then attempting to kidnap a visiting sultan's daughter, James is expelled from Eton and sentenced by his embarrassed father to seven years aboard the Sea Witch, one of Lord B.'s merchant ships, to learn discipline. The punishment secretly thrills James, who feels that it will bring him closer to a certain utopian island that consistently appears in his fantasies. While at sea, James discovers that his father's ship is being used to transport slaves. He causes a mutiny, sets the slaves free, and takes over the Sea Witch by killing the cruel quartermaster with a gaff hook during a duel, thus becoming "Capt. Hook" to his shipmates Hart takes J. M. Barrie's unforgettably evil character and presents Hook as a dashing and idealistic adolescent in this rollicking novel. Readers will be behind James all the way as he defeats the school bully, makes new friends, falls in love with a beautiful girl, and defends the underdog in an exhilarating adventure story.-Dotsy Harland PLB $16.89. ISBN 0-06-000221-2. 4Q 3P J S Copyright 2005 Voya Reviews.