Author’s myspace account hosts a book trailer, but the website it references has been disabled. It was posted in 2007 and, as far as I know, there are no plans for a movie.
Summary: Freedom Smith is a gypsy boy who can’t stay out of trouble. (There’s a mystery about him – he remembers being kidnapped, stuck with a needle, and returned to his home without anyone being the wiser.) In his latest scrape, he is accused of murder and is offered the chance to escape punishment if he will help the authorities (a secret group called Phoenix) infiltrate an underground fight club run by an evil man named Darkus Knight. Darkus would love for Freedom to fight in his illegal and profitable gambling fight club.
Personal Reaction: This book was brought to my attention by an 8th grade boy who never read much, but could not get enough of this series. That’s a winner of a recommendation for me, so I knew I had to find out what it was about. Whatever you do, do NOT listen to the audiobook! It just ruined the whole thing for me and I could barely get through it without laughing. The male narrator does an admirable job on Freedom, but everything else is hideous (Java, Ant, Darkus – awful). I started this book in July 2012 and just kept stopping my listening because it irritated me so much.
I think kids could probably get over the silliness of some of the details in order to enjoy the story. I would have appreciated it more if it was only about Freedom and the fight club. I think Darkus could have been a menacing figure without bringing in all the gene-splicing, altar worshipping, zombie brainwashing. The dark side of human nature works just fine in fiction without the extra fantastical stuff.
Connections to other books: Like a fighter with a heart? Try The Contender by Lipsyte or The Boxer and the Spy *mature content by Parker (boxing), or The Last Thing I Remember by Klavan (karate). Or, learn self-defense moves with nonfiction: Self-Defense for Women by Soo-Warr and Krav Maga and Self-Defense by Byers are just a few of the titles available on fighting and mixed martial arts. I suppose if the gene-splicing subtext strikes your fancy, you could try DNA and RNA (Understanding Genetics) by Hall. I am not aware of any books about gypsy/traveller culture, but there is information available online.
Items to display with book: backpack, trailer/caravan model, old sneakers, monopoly money, boxing ring model, hoodie sweeatshirt
Food items connected to story: Because it took me so long to listen to this audiobook, all I can remember was that Freedom was a sucker for spicy foods. A popular location from the book is a local ice-cream parlor which served Knickerbocker Glories.