4.5 stars, rounded up. This review is also available on my blog, Read Till Dawn.
This is a very interesting scenario, isn’t it? Such a moral dilemma. If you’d asked me before, I would have said that no way should a kid be raised in a prison; it isn’t right to bring a child up amongst dangerous criminals who would be a threat to him or – at the very least – teach him really wonky morals. I would envision something like the opening scenes of “Megamind,” where the titular character is taken in by prison inmates and raised behind bars by prisoners who teach him that policemen are bad and thieves are good. This is not the case in All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook, however; in fact, some of the inmates (committed for manslaughter, or one-time accidental murders) are morally superior to the people Perry meets outside of jail.
I really enjoyed chewing through all of the moral dilemmas and thought-provoking questions raised by the scenario presented in the novel – most of which I don’t really want to discuss because they’re spoilers. I also liked the characters, all of whom were realistically drawn with both good sides and bad sides. Perry is a great kid, he really is, and I felt terrible for him as he watched his entire life come apart at the seams. It’s easy to hate Thomas VanLeer, the man responsible for ripping Perry away from his home and loved ones, but it’s clear that he honestly believes he’s doing the best thing for Perry.
I don’t think this is one of my favorite books in the entire world, because while it’s very good it feels like there’s some extra unidentifiable spark missing that would take it to that higher level. As a regular read, though, it’s very good: entertaining, thought-provoking, and emotionally satisfying. I recommend it to anyone who thinks it looks interesting – and if you do read it, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the book!