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The Death-Defying Pepper Roux

3.43  ·  Rating Details ·  548 Ratings  ·  142 Reviews
When Pepper Roux was born his aunt foretold that he would not live past 14 years of age. Throughout his childhood his parents haven't bothered with him much, knowing that his life would be short-lived. So when Pepper wakes up on his 14th birthday he knows this will be the day that he'll die. But as the day wears on, and Pepper finds himself still alive, he decides to set o ...more
Paperback, 241 pages
Published June 3rd 2010 by Oxford University Press (first published October 1st 2009)
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Community Reviews

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Jan 24, 2010 Betsy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One Sentence Review: In a nutshell, it's Candide for kids (take that as you may).
Jun 01, 2011 Tig rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a rollicking, rumbustious book which careers along wildly as young Pepper Roux skips, lurches and dives through life in an attempt to outrun his own fate. It has been predicted by Saint Constance that he will die on his fourteenth birthday, and so he runs to escape the angels that are surely coming for him. The pace takes your breath away as you follow the twists and turns of life that befall Pepper. The authentic French setting offers a marvellous array of situations into which young Pe ...more
As posted on Outside of a Dog:

Sometimes you should absolutely judge a book by its cover. One of my favorite books of all time, Ahab’s Wife by Sena Jeter Naslund, is a book I must have picked up at the bookstore about twenty times, drawn to its cover image of a lone figure on a beach, before I ever bought the darn thing and began to read it. Covers can make or break you, and when faced with an overwhelming amount of material and a finite amount of time, sometimes snap judgments must be made, and
Aug 15, 2012 Lizzy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kids-books
“On the morning of his fourteenth birthday, Pepper had been awake for fully two minutes before realizing it was the day he must die.” This is the opening line of the rip-roaring adventure awaiting the “le pauvre” (poor thing) –Pepper Roux. Pepper and those around him, his parents and aunt, had known since the day he was born that he was not to live beyond his fourteenth birthday. Everyone was resigned to it, even Pepper. The night before he was born, Pepper’s spinster aunt Mireille had a dream o ...more
Sheenagh Pugh
Jan 20, 2010 Sheenagh Pugh rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels
I liked this book a lot, but not, in the end, quite as much as I expected to. There's nothing amiss with the writing; as usual McCaughrean is literate, engaging and challenging, not talking down to her readers because of their age. And it's certainly a page-turner, especially in the first half. The problem for me is that in the end, I'm not sure quite where it's aimed and what it's saying.

It is carefully not set in a specified time (the Foreign Legion references aren't conclusive because there h
Jan 05, 2010 Lindsey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
At first I had no idea what to make of this book. I suppose given the cover art and title, I was expecting a story of daring escapades in which a boy who thought he was supposed to already have died was completely fearless in the face of danger, leading a crew of misfit sailors into certain death scenarios and coming out completely unscathed. It took me a while to adjust to the fact that, in reality, it’s nothing like that at all, but is more of a dark comedy about a clever but unassuming boy wh ...more
Dec 28, 2009 Robert rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've never read any of McCaughrean's other books (although Peter Pan in Scarlet is sitting on my shelf and awaiting my attention). I only picked up the book because of the title and cover, and the promise of rip-roaring adventures of the most appealing kind.

Well, it is a children's book. Not so much young adult, as proper children's literature.

I'm not even going to pretend embarrassment. I enjoyed this book, and here's the review.

Pepper Roux's death has been foretold the night he was born, in hi
Sep 18, 2011 Terri rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I tried. I never abandon a book, but I just couldn't get through this one. We read it for a children's literature book club that I belong to (and most members of the group felt the same). Then, when I read the inside back cover and realized that it was by British author, Geraldine McCaughrean, I knew why I didn't like it. McCaughrean also wrote the award-winning "White Darkness," another book that I had trouble getting through.

My biggest beef with the book was the poor use of time and place. It
Shane Harcombe
Whimsical. That is the only word to describe this book. I found it to be enjoyable & infuriating at the same time. I wasn't loving it, despaired at some parts of the story, but wanted to finish reading it. In the end, I (mostly) loved the colourful characters, the style of the writing, but didn't enjoy the actual plot.
On a side-note, the writer obviously has a large amount of Catholic guilt from her past, leading her to create a truly horrible character in Pepper's Aunt. I feel sorry for wha
Deborah O'Carroll
I read this a few years back, and, if I’m going to be honest, I don’t remember this book very well. All I know is it was one of the strangest books I ever read and I adored it to smithereens. There was this boy named Pepper Roux who thought he was going to die when he turns 14 and there was a lot of running around with pursuits and I think there were candles and scaffolding and back alleys and ships and a best friend I think and it’s all from the unreliable narrator point-of-view of the hero and ...more
Feb 09, 2010 Karin rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Karin by: 3 starred reviews
Reminded me of a Don Quixote-style picaresque tale. Rollicking historical adventure featuring a naive 13yo boy who has been told his whole life that he would die before his 14th birthday. When that day approaches and death hasn't found him yet, he takes off to try and steer clear of her clutches and has a series of mishaps and adventures, meeting a number of colorful characters along the way. Though not completely to my taste, I was very impressed by the author's command of character, plot, etc. ...more
I found this book to be full of clever, and beautiful writing - and the story line was never dull, but I did not find myself fully engaged with the characters. The adventures of Pepper Roux as he defies his fate of dying of at age 14 was entertaining - but to me the characters were not developed enough for me to connect with, or care about them. (Most in my book club disagreed..) Overall, a nice read but not one I couldn't put down. (Childrens Lit genre 10-10-10)
Mared Owen
Nov 24, 2012 Mared Owen rated it did not like it
Shelves: unfinished
We're reading this as a group novel in school along with two of my friends (Ffion and Gwenllian). So far, so good. Except for disagreements within the group...!
Wow it's so boring! Maybe it isn't to some people... but it is to me! Nothing happens- it moves like at the pace of a snail!
Jan 05, 2017 Natalia rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: children
I picked this book to read loud to my child and pre-read it as I always do. I thought I would not like this book after reading it for a few hours. I was thinking of quitting but really glad I did not. This book grew on me; it made me root for Pepper. I really appreciated how he seemed to make good people's life around him happier and made (although unwittingly) bad people pay for their deeds. He is just such a naïve and good hearted boy! I also liked the ending - it warmed my heart. Although it ...more
A fourteen year old boy runs off on an adventure, sprinting even, to always be a step ahead of his certain fate: that he will inevitably die when he turns fourteen (which is now). On this journey through France* and its surrounding waters, Pepper changes his identity multiple times and yet wherever he goes, he seems to cause havoc.

Does this sound in anyway original? Haven't we encountered this type of storyline in various forms across the board? Possibly, but I promise you: this is something el
It took me two tries to get through this book. It has a rough start that doesn't make a whole lot of sense (or so I thought). However, I was REALLY glad I stuck with it the second time around.

On his 14th birthday Pepper picks up his father's jacket and, believing his superstitious aunt who has always told him this would be the day he died, he heads down to his father's boat. Here is where I was lost the first time. Wearing his father's coat seems to convince people that he must be his father and
Pepper Roux, Pepper Roux…what an odd child…

On the day of his birth, Paul Roux’s Aunt Mireille had a dream that he would die on his fourteenth birthday. Coddled and protected as a child, Paul, nicknamed Pepper by classmates, grew up sheltered, knowing more about last rites and funeral masses than fairy tales or sports. When his fourteenth birthday finally arrives and with it the realization that his family is waiting for his death, Pepper decides to go out and meet his fate head on. Instead, Pepp
From School Library Journal
Starred Review. Grade 6–9—A charming tale about Pepper Roux, whose jealous and cruel Aunt Mireille foretells, at his birth, his death at age 14. A devout Catholic, she insists that he learn Last Rites rather than nursery rhymes. When his 14th birthday arrives, Pepper runs away to sea in an attempt to stay a step ahead of death. He steps into many different lives, largely because, as the author repeatedly points out, people see what they expect to see. Pepper becomes th
Gail Thompson
Dec 19, 2012 Gail Thompson rated it really liked it
This is an adventure story as seen through the eyes of a fourteen-year-old boy. Although he has been brought up to believe in his impending death, Pepper does not want to die. He is very aware of danger, and ways in which to die, but apart from that, he is very innocent of how the world works. The reader sees the world through Peppers eyes, complete with his wonder and confusion as he muddles through a series of increasingly surreal situations.

Pepper runs away from home on his birthday, trying t
Oct 25, 2011 Carol rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Pepper Roux grew up with both his mother and his Aunt Mireille caring for him. His father, a ship's captain, was forever at sea making only brief appearances throughout Pepper's childhood. Due to a a dream his aunt had the night before he was born, Pepper's life was unlike any other child his age. Saint Constance told her in a dream that Pepper would die before he was fourteen -years-old. With such a profound prediction, Pepper's aunt spent her whole existence in making sure he was ready to ente ...more
I put this one down after120 pages, probably should have stopped sooner. Although a very cute story,
The Death-Defying Pepper Roux just wasn’t cutting it for me. I found it to be a very Juvenile book that would hold little interest for teens. I would probably place it’s target audience between 9 and 11, especially when curse words have been censored out by using symbols (@#$%). In my opinion, the idea of the curse word should have just been left out entirely if symbols are to define it, but in t
It is well known Pepper Roux will die by the time he turns fourteen. Therefore his whole life has been spent preparing for and waiting for death. When his fourteenth birthday arrives and Pepper is still alive, he knows that this must be his last day. But, refusing to sit around and wait for death any longer, Pepper decides to take matters into his own hands. Thus begins an adventure full of danger, friendships, and various identities (borrowed or stolen) as Pepper runs from death.

I had a really
May 09, 2011 Caren rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: children
This book is short-listed for the 2011 Carnegie Medal (a British award for outsanding children's books).
Pepper, the hero of the story, has been told all his life that he is expected to die by the time he is fourteen years old, as his Aunt Mireille was told by Saint Constance at his birth. Pepper's real name is Paul, but his aunt calls him "mon petit pauvre" (my poor little one), which his classmates at school mistakenly hear as "poivre", and so he acquired the nickname "Pepper". Aunt Mireille m
Dec 29, 2010 Sarah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: grades 6-9
Recommended to Sarah by: mc
In mid-twentieth century France, Pepper’s malicious aunt claims to have had a vision of his death the night before he was born; in it, Pepper dies at age fourteen. Always the well-behaved child, he never thinks to question this and takes it as fact—along with the rest of his dim-witted family. Therefore, he’s forced to spend his childhood confessing his sins at church, memorizing the last rites, and learning about the saints. But when his fourteenth birthday arrives, he realizes that he’s not re ...more
Nov 15, 2011 David rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, guy-reads, ya
What would you do if you were told you would die on your fourteenth birthday? If you're Pepper Roux, you would try to escape death by taking on someone else's life, and in so doing, learn how to live, rather than how to die.

Pepper's entire life has been spent preparing for his death, as foretold by his Aunt Mireille, but it looks like he might find a way to sidestep fate. He will simply slip into another life. Where ever he goes, Pepper tries his hardest to spread happiness and joy. But it seems
Mawa Mahima
Jun 07, 2014 Mawa Mahima rated it really liked it
Shelves: school-library
The Death Defyiing Pepper Roux: Really, It's About People Believing

Well, people see what they expect, don't they?
Or do they see what they want?

This book is hilarious! Pepper Roux, having been destined to die at age fourteen, suddenly finds himself trying to escape death at every twist and turn. Having lived a day and more beyond his fourteenth birthday, he knew the angels were out to get him with their fiery chariots and all and so he ran away. He took up many names and many disguises, and many,
Nov 27, 2011 Mary rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Despite excellent reviews, it took a while for me to pick this book up and start reading it for two reasons: the title - Pepper Roux is a stupid name for a character; it sounds like a sauce; and the cover - I don't like it. When I finally started reading, it took a while to get into this book as well, but curiosity about what would happen to Paul (Pepper) Roux kept me reading. Many people read this as a children's book, but I have a hard time imagining how children will respond to it. There are ...more
Apr 09, 2011 Rachael rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition

I actually have no words!

It started off good... boy escapes horrible family who thinks he's going to die before he's 14 years old, so he takes his father's place as captain on the ship.

Then the book spiralled out of control. It's probably more suited towards children. I did enjoy the part where he's working in the bakery, I was quite interested in the characters there but he was soon off and away again.

Another thing I wasn't keen on was the religious language (most words I didn't under
When he was born, Pepper Roux's aunt declared that she had had a revelation from St. Constance: Pepper would die before he turned fourteen. Thus, Pepper's whole life was a preparation for his death, until the actual day, when he decided to run away from it. This leads him into a cavalcade of adventures, identities, and jobs--from telegram boy to journalist to salami slicer, stirring up accidental mayhem while trying simultaneously to survive, do good, and stay one step ahead of death.

I could nev
Keir Bridges
The Death-Defying Pepper Roux, by Geraldine McCaughrean, tells the story of Paul "Pepper" Roux, a French boy whose Aunt, on the day he was born, made this prediction: Pepper would die on his fourteenth birthday. When that day came, a series of events led Pepper to steal his father's ship and his identity as Captain Roux. From there, he has a series of adventures and identities. In his quest to avoid dying, Pepper experiences more living in a few months than most do in a lifetime. Throughout the ...more
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Geraldine McCaughrean was born in 1951 and brought up in North London. She studied at Christ Church College of Education, Canterbury and worked in a London publishing house for 10 years before becoming a full-time writer in 1988. She has written over 120 books, 50 short plays for schools, and a radio play.

Her adult novels include Fires’ Astonishment (1990) and The Ideal Wife (1997), but she is bes
More about Geraldine McCaughrean...

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