A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
A glossary of sailing terms appears at the very beginning of the book, showing how important it is for readers to know them in order to follow along.
Teamwork, becoming a leader, brain over brawn, taking responsibility for mistakes, and respecting authority are all important learning lessons for the boys in the Heron brotherband. Hal also learns that winning respect is more important than beating everyone in a competition. Maybe not the best lesson, though, is when a Hal stands up to a bully with his fists and everyone decides this is the only way to handle the situation.
Positive Role Models
Hal becomes a leader in this book, overcoming the prejudice he faces because his mother is a foreigner and earning respect. He makes mistakes and can be thoughtless to Thorn, his supportive mentor, but he always owns up to what he's done and makes amends. All the boys in Hal's brotherband are the last ones anyone would pick to be on their team but they still come together and work hard to win. Hal's friend Stig has a problem with his temper but he's loyal and hardworking. Thorn is an alcoholic who stops drinking to be a better mentor to fatherless Hal. On the minus side, the boys are training to be Seawolves and sail ships that sometimes raid other towns and keep the spoils.
Violence & Scariness
Pirates overtake ships and kill the crew, one of them a boy. They also slit a couple throats. In the brotherband there's a nasty fist fight, rough wresting as part of the competition, and some sparring with weapons. Back stories are told of Hal's father dying from a spear, Hal and Stig nearly drowning, and Thorn losing his hand in a sailing accident.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A brief mention of a teen kiss and some flirtling.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Much about Thorn's years of heavy drinking after the loss of his hand, how he quits to mentor Hal, and how he nearly starts drinking again to cope with a sadness but throws the bottle away. Ale is served at a party.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this adventure/fantasy from the author of the Ranger's Apprentice series is fairly low on violence. Pirates kill sailors and watchmen in two brief scenes and there's one significant fist fight among teen boys, but otherwise the focus is on teens coming together as a team. The main character, Hal, becomes a leader, and the boys in his underdog "brotherband" employ all their skills to compete against other, stronger brotherbands. There's lots of talk about Hal's mentor Thorn and his years of drinking, but he quits in order to be a positive figure in Hal's life.
Is It Any Good?
If you like underdog stories and camp, you'll love THE OUTCASTS. If you like boats, it's an added bonus. The author of the Ranger's Apprentice series gets readers rooting for Hal and his friends -- even those crazy bickering twins -- as they take on one challenge after another. At first it's kind of surprising that almost the whole book focuses on the brotherband training, but it sets up the series well and hints at the excitement to come. It also gives readers time to get to know Hal and see him become a real leader and an innovative thinker. He's a character worth following on many adventures.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.