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Temple Boys


Temple Boys

Jerusalem of the first century A.D. was a volatile place, to say the least. Between continuous native rebellions, Roman oppression and sectarian violence, there was plenty of juicy material from which authors can draw to create a vivid backdrop. In his TEMPLE BOYS, writer Jamie Buxton deftly demonstrates his comprehension of this complicated political situation. Sadly, not even his rich portrayal of the time period can lift his limp prose and weak characterization.

TEMPLE BOYS kicks off with a rather typical scenario: a street kid is in a pickle. Our hero is young Flea --- no Hebrew names for Jerusalem kids? --- who’s struggling in life. He’s an unpopular member of an aptly-named street gang, the Temple Boys. Their territory is the Jerusalem Temple, and they steal from tourists and scavenge what they can in order to eke out an existence.

In his TEMPLE BOYS, writer Jamie Buxton deftly demonstrates his comprehension of the complicated political situation [in first century A.D. Jerusalem].

When we meet Flea, it’s Year Zero and there’s a big party in Jerusalem because it’s Passover! All the citizens of Judea are obligated to come to the capital to celebrate at the Temple, so the city is packed to the eaves with newcomers. That provides plenty of pickpocketing opportunities for Flea…until he gets distracted by gossip that a magical newbie is in town. This guy goes by the name of “the Magician,” and he captures Flea’s attention. The Magician isn’t a flashy attraction, though. In fact, he’s a humble guy whom lots of people think might be the Messiah.

This is an extremely exciting scenario to explore in a YA novel, and Buxton displays an extraordinary understanding of the tense Roman politics at the time, both between different Jewish factions and against the Romans controlling Judea.

However, he too often shunts it to the side in favor of focusing on his underdeveloped main character, Flea. I also felt that his too-short sentences and poor vocabulary choices make the reader feel he’s writing for a too-young market. Also, as almost everyone even passingly familiar with Western religion knows, Jesus was said to have been born in Year Zero. He would’ve come to Jerusalem around 33 A.D., if at all (his historicity is, of course, up for debate).

Yeshu --- Jesus --- is an intriguing character, and Jude, his best friend-turned-Judas, is simply magnetic. One could only wish that these two could displace Flea and tell their own stories.

Reviewed by Carly Silver on February 13, 2015

Temple Boys
by Jamie Buxton

  • Publication Date: February 10, 2015
  • Genres: Young Adult 12+
  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
  • ISBN-10: 1626720363
  • ISBN-13: 9781626720367