The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain

Posted April 8, 2020 by Amber in Reviews / 2 Comments

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

by Mark Twain

Series: The Adventures of Tom and Huck #1
Publisher: American Publishing Company on February 1, 1876
Genre: Adventure, Classics, Historical Fiction
Target Age Group: Adult, Childrens, Middle Grade, New Adult, Young Adult
Rating: ★★★½

Check out this book on Goodreads

Tom Sawyer is sure to find trouble wherever the river leads him….

On the banks of the Mississippi River, Tom Sawyer and his friends seek out adventure at every turn. Then one fateful night in the graveyard they witness a murder. The boys make a blood oath never to reveal the secret, and they run away to be pirates in search of hidden treasure. But when Tom gets trapped in a cave with scary Injun Joe, can he escape unharmed?


You know, I’ve read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn multiple times… but I’ve never read about Tom Sawyer?  Oh, sure, I know plenty about Tom.  I know the old get-your-friends-to-paint-the-fence trick (you’ve got to give it to Tom – he was quite clever about that).  I know he’s in love with Becky Thatcher and that there’s a cave and treasure and people think he died at one point, but honestly?  Most of that I got from seeing a lot of trailers for Tom & Huck when I was a kid, and having gone to Tom Sawyer’s Island in the Magic Kingdom.  Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn are both classic American literary icons, for better or worse.

Actually, I think Tom as a character is pretty great.  He’s incredibly dramatic to the point of being humorous.  He’s solemn and serious when the occasion calls for it, but he’s also brave.  Tom Sawyer is a kid in the way that I feel like we don’t write children anymore.  He’s whimsy and slyness and sweetness and trouble.  Perhaps in the modern age we don’t have the time and trust for such frivolities… how different our lives are now than 100 years ago!

Like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, this book is written around a series of small adventures.  While Huck travels the wide world, Tom sicks pretty close to St. Petersburg, MO.  There are pirates (imaginary), robbers (real), and murders (also real).  Honestly, it’s quite the adventure book and I can see why so many of the scenes are classics.  But I really don’t think it’s the story here that makes it memorable – I think it’s Tom himself.

I wrote a little while ago about unsavory themes in classic literature, and at the time, I’d included The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn as an example.  If I were to go back and re-write that post, I’d definitely include Tom Sawyer, because while Jim’s characterization feels like a choice made by Twain to outline the inherent racism of his audience… ‘Injun Joe’ feels like much more of a harmful stereotype.  Perhaps it’s because he’s the villain that it feels so much worse, but every time we got back to talking about the overarching plot, I cringed.  That doesn’t mean the whole book is unreadable, there are definitely bits that are delightful and those are the ones preserved by pop culture, like the fence and Tom and Becky  But I was a bit uncomfortable the the vagrant behavior of the villain, and I am sure that someone will reply saying that too was satirical, but honestly… I didn’t need it..

As for the book itself and my experience with it… I had the hardest time pushing myself through Tom Sawyer.  I’m not sure if it was the episodic storytelling (which is a style, and there’s nothing wrong with it) or the way Tom so easily got out of scrapes, or just me.  I think most likely it’s just me… but I dragged myself through this book and while I think Tom as a character is worthy of remembering, as far as Twain’s writing goes, Huck Finn and A Connecticut Yankee are both better reads.

Come for the classic and the lead up to the Huckleberry Finn story, but I would say don’t expect to have your socks knockoff by something deep and profound and moving or anything like that.  There’s an ounce of Twain’s wit in this one, but I prefer to go in for a gallon.

Ratings Breakdown

Setting: ★★★ 1/2
Plot: ★★★
Characters: ★★★★
Writing: ★★★ 1/2
Pacing: ★★★
Personal Enjoyment: ★★★


The Adventures of Tom Sawyer Stays on the Shelf

This book squeaks by the removal process… and I really mean it just barely gets past the chopping block. Not because it’s bad, but because I was mostly disinterested.  Donating books is not about whether a book is good or bad for me (sometimes it’s bad, of course).  It’s about whether or not I’ll read it again.

might re-read The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.  Probably in a few years, once I’ve forgotten I was bored.  Maybe some summer when I can sit in the back yard and enjoy the sunshine as well.

Any book rating 3.5 needs a justifying reason to stay, and here’s mine:  I have a nice leather bound Barnes & Noble edition of this book, and it matches my copy of Huck Finn, which I would like to keep. If it was a ratty paperback, I’d honestly probably toss it, but it looks nice there and I’m a sucker for classics, so I’ll probably come back to it.


Do you prefer Tom Sawyer or Huckleberry Finn?  I appreciate them both for different reasons, but I like each of them better separately as a team, as strange as that may sound.  You tell me though – do you like the manipulative mastermind for the bumbling ragamuffin?

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2 responses to “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain

  1. I don’t think I ever read this one. But your review brought back a fond memory. When I was about ten years old, our school dressed up for World Book Day and all of the other girls went as various princesses while I went dressed as Huck Finn. I still have the embarrassing photo somewhere.

    • Amber

      Oh my word Tizzy, that is wonderful! Huck is such a darling character, he really is, so great choice! … I mean, if you’re familiar with Tom Sawyer, it’s probably okay to skip this one because while it is generally charming, it wasn’t all that surprising I guess? I love that you still have that photo somewhere, though. I don’t think my school ever did anything like that, but what a fun idea!!