The Outlaws Scarlett and Browne: Scarlett and Browne, Book 1
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A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Outlaws Scarlett and Browne is an adventure-fantasy by Jonathan Stroud, author of the popular Lockwood & Co. series. We're recommending this exciting series start for 12 and up -- higher than the publisher's age of 10 -- because of the postapocalyptic setting, some upsetting and gory violence, and because the main characters are likable villains. One of the main characters, Albert Browne, describes having been psychologically and physically tortured before escaping imprisonment. Gory scenes include bodies described after they are torn apart by animals and eaten by cannibals -- a severed head is found, its features well described. There are also many deaths in action scenes, from gun fights, explosions, and from being magically torn apart. There's some underage drinking and swearing that doesn't go beyond "bastard." Scarlett is a teen bank robber who kills a lot of people. She learns to care about Albert after their adventures together, but she's unrepentant about her violent acts. Albert learns to accept himself, but he also kills a lot of people.
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What's the Story?
In THE OUTLAWS SCARLETT AND BROWNE, Scarlett wakes up in the woods surrounded by the dead bodies of four men who foolishly tried to rob her and heads into the nearest town to rob its bank. She gets the money without too much fuss and gun-waving, but she also gets a search party after her as she flees back to the Wilds. When she thinks she's run to safety at last, she discovers a crashed bus in the woods. Inside are the gory remains of the injured that were eaten and dragged off by animals, and a few valuables for the taking. She's about to be on her way when she hears a knocking in the bus bathroom. A boy emerges looking confused, relieved, and oddly jovial. Scarlett is tempted to leave this strange boy there, but it's getting dark and the animals will return for him. Sure enough, a bear attacks, and that's not the worst of it -- the search party is back, and this time they are relentless. It turns out that it's not Scarlett they're after, it's the boy, Albert Browne, and he's definitely not the harmless simpleton Scarlett first thought he was. He's 10 times more dangerous than she is.
Is It Any Good?
Both the young criminals and the vividly drawn postapocalyptic England fascinate in this high-adventure fantasy quest, but some grim and gory elements seem overdone. Gunfights, bank heists, deadly human-sized river otters and birds and a forest full of ravenous bears: exciting. Cannibals, people torn to pieces, and the torture of children -- the balance has tipped from high adventure to slasher horror. The shock factor gets somewhat in the way of what there is to love about this author, who brought ghost story fans the amazing gift of the Lockwood & Co. series. Author Jonathan Stroud is one of the best fantasy world-builders out there and knows how to set a scene with such vivid details that readers are fully emersed. You'll feel just as claustrophobic as Scarlett and Albert on their tiny river raft, wary at every moment of danger.
Stroud also builds complex, curious, witty characters that you'd follow just about anywhere -- though maybe not into a den full of cannibals. Scarlett is about as rough as it gets. The Outlaws Scarlett and Browne opens with her surrounded by the dead bodies of men who tried to rob her in the night. She's unrepentant about her kills and heists, but also in such a lawless world it's hard to imagine her surviving without a gun at the ready. She's no one-note criminal, however. She also never goes anywhere without her swear jar and her meditation prayer mat. And she slowly falls for the odd charms of Albert Browne, and can't stop herself from being curious about his hidden talents, some of them quite deadly. His quest turns into hers and their adventure on the Thames is thrilling and bloody and shoot-'em-up until the very end. If you can abide by some of the grimmer bits, this is an exciting ride of a story.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about the likable villains in The Outlaws Scarlett and Browne. Albert and Scarlett kill a lot of people and Scarlett steals. What makes them likable? Do they have other options, living in this already lawless world? Does that make their killing seem less of an offense?
Another likable villain in popular kids books is Artemis Fowl. What others can you think of? Artemis becomes less of a villain as his series continues. Do you think there's hope for Scarlett and Albert to change their outlaw ways, even if their options are more limited?
What do you think about the setting of this story? There are many dystopian stories out there, but mostly targeted at older readers. Why do you think that is?
- Author: Jonathan Stroud
- Genre: Adventure
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Adventures, Friendship, Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires, Wild Animals
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
- Publication date: October 5, 2021
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 10 - 12
- Number of pages: 432
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: February 14, 2023
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